Appositely for this weekend, Ross Noble’s huge, inflatable backdrop and stage trappings have a Hispanic, Day of the Dead theme. Beyond a subtitled Spanish introduction, this is mere window dressing however, till a passing quip about Brexit prompts a belligerent audience member to ask why the Geordie comic didn’t do more to stop the Leave vote.
As the UK’s highest profile improvising comedian, Noble feeds productively off his crowds. And tonight’s is especially “lively” he maintains. Still, it’s a bewildering, even charged moment.
Ross Noble: El Hablador, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh ***
Playing for time, he conjures some lovely whimsy about the banning of continental phenomenon, with a blasé French hippopotamus reclining on a chaise longue.
Still, he appreciates that he has to address such interruptions convincingly, no matter how random and aggressive. And his second half particularly is masterful, not only in keeping so many audience-hurled plates spinning, but ultimately guiding them safely back to the ground.
Unquestionably, the stakes seem higher nowadays. When he touches on transgender issues, he tiptoes softly, stressing his attempts to be politically correct, aware that a stray off-the-cuff remark could potentially land him in hot water.
Rather than allowing himself to be inhibited though, he accepts the challenge. Riffing on African accents, “lesbian tunnels” and even “midgets”, falling over himself to be respectful, he’s still mocking of excessive sensitivity, all the while indulging his flights of fantasy, the context of the room and moment everything.
Regrettably, additional audience interjections prevent him finishing on his planned big laugh. And he needs to extend his set to regain momentum, making the show feel slightly too long, proving that you can have too much of a good thing. - Jay Richardson