Christian Brighty: I love romantic love — but real love exists in the small places

Fringe Debuts!

Welcome to our Fringe Debuts series, where comedians taking their first show to Edinburgh Fringe will give you a little taster of what to expect, an insight into their world, or really super weird musings on something equally bizarre — to be honest, we just let them run with it. If you’re readying yourself for a giant lol injection in August, now’s your chance to find something NEW to add to your list.

Christian Brighty is performing Playboy, a character comedy show wearing the flowing white shirt and knee-high boots of a Romantic Period Drama. Here he talks about his love of the genre, passion for Poldark and why romantic love isn’t enough on its own.

When I was in secondary school I sang a song to a girl on her birthday, asking her out in front of about 70 people. She said no. It’s on Youtube. And I think that Mr Darcy is to blame.

This Fringe I’m performing my own Romantic Period Drama, playing with a genre I adore. Where sadness means rushing desperately into the rain. Where at every ball our heroine will meet the man of her dreams. Where love builds from a longing stare, to a hand flex, and finally an almost-kiss. Where men express emotions by never expressing emotions. It sounds awful, and I want it so much.

That specific period — the Regency — is so glamorous. The last gasp of historical sauciness before the puritanical bleakness of the Victorians. It’s the costumes. The flowing white shirts. The knee-high boots. Today’s fuckboys don’t have the decency to dress half as well.

But those men, those melancholy beefcakes, portrayed by the most gorgeous actors alive, are dangerously irresistible. I should have worked out how I felt about Aidan Turner, star of Poldark, when after watching Being Human as a teenager I started dressing like him. He ruins me. How can one man stare at the sea for so long? What is he moodily thinking about? Is the ocean just his big wet therapist?

We are so funny, in the way we get caught up in that fantasy. In period dramas, love is forever the goal. And in most of them, once it is attained, that’s the end. Chance encounter, obstacle, big gesture (normally riding out into the rain), wedding bells, credits.

I grew up having swallowed this pill completely, believing everything society teaches us about romantic love. The full ‘Love Actually’ myth. That essentially, if you do one big Romantic gesture, they will fall in love with you. Whoever you love, however little you know them.

These beliefs culminated in the moment I sang that song to the girl I fancied. After I finished singing, the whole crowd chanted: “Say it! Say it!”, also convinced she would say yes, caught up in the filmic myth. But, to her enormous credit, she did not. The thought of that moment, and the intention behind it, now makes me feel queasy. It was an act so much more about ME than it was about them. The thinking went “if I am seen to be a hero, it will be impossible not to fall in love with me”.

But I know I learnt that from our stories about love. That choice was drawn from pure narcissism. Still unconvinced? It was ME who uploaded it to YouTube. How desperately did I want to be seen as being nobly in love?!

The character I play in my show is that part of me, who wants to be the greatest Romantic who ever lived. It is such a funny, selfish character. But in our world, Romantic love burns too hot for it to fuel our entire lives. The chemicals run out after the honeymoon period. So what can remain?

I believe we can have both. I am not a cynic. I love romantic love. But real love is mundane and exists in the small places. Austen, despite never marrying, knew that. She underlines that a great friendship between Darcy and Elizabeth bloomed after the wedding bells.

There is a danger in the aesthetic of Romantic stories. They screw with our idea of who a desirable partner is, and what love is. We assume the moody brute will secretly have a heart of gold. I don’t know if you’ve met men, but that’s rarely the case. We must guard ourselves against forever chasing the perfect pedestalled partner. Darcy doesn’t exist. But something better does.

The show Poldark, I think, is so beautiful for it’s covering 5 seasons of a marriage. It does not end at the wedding. That’s episode 3 of the first season. It’s about the struggles, the ups and downs of love. Two people learning to respect and make space for each other, amongst infidelities and betrayals.

I wrote this show Playboy with my partner in comedy and love, Amy Greaves. She made all the beautiful props, and voices the love interest. We’ve been together five years and this is the closest we’ve ever collaborated on a project. The show is built on that respect and trust. To struggle, to grow, to fail and apologise. To build together. That is real Romance. I’m just wearing a costume.

Christian Brighty: Playboy runs from 3rd-28th Aug, at 9:40pm, at the Pleasance. Tickets here

Christian is on Twitter, Instagram and Tiktok at @brightybuoy

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