By Jay Menard
Jon Bennett is a masterful storyteller who is a veteran of the Fringe circuit. And How I Learned to Hug is likely his most well-rounded, heart-warming story. Over the years, from Pretending Things are a Cock to My Dad’s Deaths, we’ve seen him grow and develop as a storyteller, infusing ribald humour with warmth — and with How I Learned to Hug, we see him fully build an uproariously hilarious show upon a foundation of heart, vulnerability, and sensitivity.
How I Learned to Hug is a story inspired by a customs experience at Montreal’s Trudeau Airport, where he feels he needs to justify the fact that he has felt love in the past. For the next hour, he regales us with his stories of loves lost and found, and how they, for a period, forced him to eschew the idea of hugging and public displays of affection.
Bennett, as he’s shown over the years, is a master at integrating photo evidence of his past to punctuate story points. Even his “running” movement is charmingly endearing.
Bennett does reach into the audience at times to share personal experiences. He skillfully uses the crowd work to integrate us into the story. It’s not overused, it doesn’t feel forced, and it immediately gets us on board with the story. For a story about not hugging, the audience is instantly embraced into the show.
It seems every year that we say Bennett’s show is a must-see and this year’s no different. He has skillfully built upon the foundation that previous shows establish and we are left with a unique blend of gut-busting laughter and emotional resonance in his wake.
Embrace this incredible opportunity and see How I Learned to Hug.
This review originally appeared on theatreinlondon.ca