To be invited into Ross Noble's world is to enter a pre-pubescent boy's bedroom ruled by space monkeys and gods made out of Dairylea.
To be invited into Ross Noble's world is to enter a pre-pubescent boy's bedroom ruled by space monkeys and gods made out of Dairylea. It's not only his motifs that are tweenie; so is his mix of stream-of-consciousness babble and fixed ideas. The resultant flow of strange notions can be tiring, but the 27-year-old Northumbrian is too charming not to be indulged. What would it be like if we had flaps of meat covering our foreheads? This is apropos of nothing much, and appears to be just a spur-of-the-moment musing. Herein lies Noble's art: this particular routine has been cooked up in previous shows, but it is thrown in here as if it were a fresh ingredient.
Of the material that was reheated in the oven of the City Varieties Music Hall, this wasn't the meatiest offering. Rather more so was his portrayal of Jesus as a table-tennis fanatic who cured lepers in a number of ingenious ways. A Pythonesque beauty.
Like his backdrop of foam noodles, Noble's material is a collection of colourful, interlinked strands that build on each other, gaining momentum, disappearing and reappearing. The effort that goes into his work is obvious - sweat gradually colours the whole of his embroidered shirt, though his fresh-faced demeanour and his energy remain constant. It was a shame that Noble didn't have a larger stage to bound around on, as he did recently at the Hammersmith Apollo, where he recorded a set for Jack Dee's forthcoming BBC TV show. Indeed, even larger spaces may beckon. Eddie Izzard, whose name is often mentioned in the same sentence as Noble's, mainly because of their shared gift for surrealism and improvisation, believes that every comedian should aspire to a stadium gig, and he has indicated that Noble could be next to go down that road.
On the other hand, the box-like intimacy of the Music Hall helped Noble to play to a generousand receptive audience. He even inspired one couple on the balcony to red- or yellow-card him for his material. The pair in question actually brought cards with them when they returned after the interval. Noble was already on a yellow for his routine about poo sculptures, and when he made comic capital out of the fact that an audience member had been taken to hospital during the interval, there was a hilarious sending-off.
Needless to say, the comedian subsequently made enquiries about the ailing audience member's health, and was reassured that she was fine. The irony was that when, for an encore, Noble actually asked for input from the audience, the noodle strands of his act resisted his attempts to weave them together. A lengthy question-and-answer session turned into "An Audience with Ross Noble", in which people embarrassed themselves with inanities and he found himself unable to tease anything from the improvisation.
Noble likened the Q&A to watching the musical Cats and being able to stay behind to ask things such as, "Where do you get your litter?" Nice line, but the Q&A idea should be snipped.
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