Last night I saw Ross Noble’s Mindblender show, his 13th major tour to date and my 7th opportunity to watch this master in action. For the uninitiated it is very difficult to review a Ross Noble performance as he does not adhere to the formal model of stand up comics. Light hearted audience participation, on the spot improvisation and seamlessly linked, superbly written surreal observational stories make up his performances. Last night followed this well trodden formula.
He launched in to a dreamlike Celebrity Deal or No Deal re-enactment with Derren Brown convincing Noel Edmonds to blow his face off met by a rather sinister round of applause by the crowd, including myself it must be said. A cavalcade of current references – Jimmy Saville included – and improvisation with the audience ensued including Underwear Antiques Roadshow, sticking hot spoons up your arse and a centaur pottery lesbian knocking the Queen’s hat off with his/her cock (don’t ask). Probably the first actual written segment came when trying to understand The Dark Knight Rises dialogue. Batman’s ridiculous whispering during a riot scene and attempting to receive some ‘dark’ biscuits from Alfred drew many laughs. This was matched by Bane morphing in to Kenneth Williams and Sweep from The Sooty Show. Noble’s dislike of Frankie Boyle was another part of the show almost certainly pre-written with allusions to new events that could be incorporated in to the Paralympics veering on dangerous Boyle-like territory at times.
The second half began as always with a parade of gifts that allowed for more improv with the spectators which once more proved enough of a success for the pre-planned material to be shelved. However, it must be said that my friend, experiencing his first full Noble show, was no longer finding the show as laugh out loud funny as he had pre-interval. Perhaps this was due to a more conventional style second half where an interaction with an audience member saw Noble talking about his daughter in a pre-written sketch about her clothing habits. While the story was clearly heart-warming and demonstrated how he and his daughter were very much alike, it was perhaps tailored towards the new-found viewers Noble has gained recently from his joining Twitter (@realrossnoble), and appearances on more mainstream shows such as The Graham Norton Show (alongside Katy Perry and Cheryl Cole) and Something For The Weekend. As someone who has followed Noble’s work for 8+ years it felt more like a Michael McIntyre or John Bishop story and left me feeling somewhat uncomfortable. However, I can fully see how this would endear him to others.
As with all Noble gigs the lavish set represented a combination of the inner workings of his mind and absolutely fucking nothing.
The sell out crowd certainly helped propel the show along and some provided perfectly timed comic aides but at times others caused problems where audience members felt compelled to participate by shouting out references from past shows – this is one of my major pet hates – in a vain attempt to become famous and impress (monkeys wearing trilbies, meat on the face, Aussie wife) although Noble, as a man with 20 years experience in stand up, was able to put down the hecklers very quickly. However, this added somewhat to the disjointed nature of the show. Even so if you’ve never seen Ross Noble live then ‘you’re a fool to yourself’ as the Cramlington born genius is fond of saying. His wit and energetic comedy is likely to enthuse throughout and the 2 hour plus set is certainly value for money. Highly recommended if not his best show in my opinion.