Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Spencer Jones no longer seems to know if he’s playing himself on stage or his clown alter-ego The Herbert.
Heroes @ Monkey Barrel (Venue 515)
It scarcely matters, as bringing the two closer together and introducing even more of his real life into his absurd hour has paid dividends in what feels like a breakthrough show. And that’s despite his repeated attempts to dampen expectations at the top, maintaining that The Audition is beneath even a work-in-progress preview.
There’s still plenty of the formidable foolishness that made his name, but his regular ping pong balls have been replaced by tennis balls. Typically, he’s brought far too many, so he has transformed them into a series of silly little characters, good for several minutes of solid belly laughs. He has also invested in a vibrating wobble board, a simple prop but one which evokes hilarity out of all proportion to its initial promise.
Then there’s the return of his looping machine, working up some of his naggingly catchy, nonsensical tunes, while winningly, and he is deploying an audio refrain of “Something’s Gone Wrong”, making manifest the risks he is taking and acknowledging the occasional set-pieces that fall flat on their face.
This time round though, there is also a discernible narrative thread running throughout, concerning Jones’s struggle as a jobbing actor, which might end with an opportunity to screentest for Steven Spielberg’s new science-fiction blockbuster, in the lead role as a sentient robot. Imbuing his planning with a certain thespian dignity, he is still set up to fail though, as he reintroduces the wobble board and turns his physical preparation into a farce of grooming silliness.
Best of all perhaps, are further glimpses of the relationship he enjoys with his chip-off-the-old-block son, their recorded conversation about where babies come from spinning off into a bizarre tangent of Jones Jr’s imagination.
Until 27 August. Today 6:20pm.