The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton - 26th March 2009
If you’ve never seen a Ross Noble show describing it in words is something of a task. What Noble does is more than just a stand-up routine; it’s an engaging 3-hour (or thereabouts) performance by a one-man act with more energy than a school-bus of hyperactive children on their way to a Red Bull convention.
Noble hops onto the stage, on which sits a giant inflatable concoction of mythical beast appendages complete with four Ross heads on top (surreal is not the word) and an eruption of applause is hurled his way as he saunters up and down waving at people. From this image alone one could almost be forgiven for saying that he had reached the status of a rock star.
The most intriguing thing about
Ross Noble’s shows is his ability to think on his feet.
Naturally, many comedians are gifted in being able to deal with
hecklers in quick-fitted fashion or have a certain spontaneity
about them. But not many can make an entire show out of it.
Audience members become the butt of gags and in some respects
can often steal the show entirely; at Noble’s insistence of
It must be said that heckling is not done with malice. In fact it almost seems to have become a tradition for people in the audience to put themselves in the spotlight by friendly heckles or unusual apparel or by merely being one of the lucky few to acquire a front row seat.
Noble was able to pick out a couple of pensioners sitting up front and in particular their walking sticks and shopping bags. I don’t know many comedians (or mortal people in general) that can engage so well with people in a light hearted and jocular manner based solely on everyday items. He imagines scenarios involving the two pensioners in which they form a crime-fighting team with a man sat next to them wearing a t-shirt with an expletive on it. Noble keeps coming back to this bizarre situation that he conjured up out of nothing in a variety of contexts, keeping the gag fresh and entertaining.
Because of this ability to use various members of the audience as jumping off points for jokes, combined with Noble’s ability to open up imaginative, and almost insane, tangents, the comedy itself can be quite surreal which one can imagine makes each show on his tours a unique experience. It also means that those attending the show feel like they are part of some “in-joke” which those who don’t attend cannot even begin to comprehend. It makes his shows that much more communal, if a little esoteric.
His presence on stage is where a lot of the laughs come from. He has an unmatched skill in mime where he can imagine the most imaginative concepts that are almost believable and yet unbelievable at the same time. Those who attended the Wolverhampton show will no doubt remember him covering a pig in Vaseline for use in an elaborate scheme involving Beyoncé (move along now, move long…)
Needless to say an encore is very much in-demand where, in the case of the Wolverhampton show, a sort of Q&A section of the show takes over. Noble stands poised, glaring at an audience waiting with baited breath before he asks “any questions?” which, in Stand-Up Country, is surely dicing with death. But he takes each question with a grain of salt and answers as many as he can in true surrealist form.
Ross is an unstoppable force in comedy with a knack for having audiences holding on to his every word as he regales them with stories that almost seem to have come to him on the spot. It’s hard to tell whether he has gags in mind before his shows but his unique take on hecklers and audience participation makes him one of the most gifted comedians to come from the north.