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Fringe review: Ross Noble - El Hablador

Adelaide Fringe

‘Ross Noble is like an extreme extrovert on speed, providing a weird kind of escapism.’ ★★★½

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Ross Noble is often described as a surrealist or stream-of consciousness comedian, as a ‘randomist’ of free associations. He has come to public note through his appearances on British TV shows, most notably QI. If you don’t know the name, he’s the one with the long dark hair and the northern English accent who makes some of those lateral references that sparkle the show into unusual places.

The stage curtain at the Thebarton Theatre portrays a huge bug-eyed Noble face surrounded by seven skulls. The stage itself is flanked by huge inflatable skulls with eyes that flash red, and instructions to the audience are issued in sub-titled Spanish leading up to the man’s arrival climbing through the teeth.

What relevance that has to the show that follows is a mystery as Noble climbs into his random material. There are topical shots at Harvey Weinstein and (not so topical any more) Bill Cosby. Much of the material skates upon stereotypes, with jokes about things like Eskimo prostitutes and Eskimo detective shows: “How did he die?” “Of the cold.” “Bitten by huskies.”

The best comic hits come from his comparison between the US Border Patrol TV show, with its guns, drugs and heavy-handed officials, and the Australian version, with officials asking for illegally imported fruit. And also his one local joke, about Adelaide this WOMADelaide weekend.

Much is made of Noble’s interactions with hecklers. At this show it was more a matter of him drawing out audience members and conducting a loose kind of interview. “Where are you from?” “Romania.” “Oh, a vampire, eh” – more stereotypes. Another aside which saw him riffing on pronunciations of “Chihuahua” for three or four minutes seemed like an obviously rehearsed filler piece.

Noble has a huge repertoire of material and he segues from one to another of his pieces with gusto for two hours, which must be pretty hard work. He is like an extreme extrovert on speed, providing a weird kind of escapism, but great comedians have something to say buried in their routines – a unifying motif, something satisfying for the audience to take away.

Random is good for a TV show, but for more than two hours I found it a little grating.

Ross Noble is appearing at the Thebarton Theatre until March 11. Read more InDaily Fringe reviews and stories here.

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