Comedy review: Ross Noble – Tangentleman, Edinburgh

Ross Noble's fertile imagination ensures no two of his shows are ever very similar. Picture: PA
Ross Noble's fertile imagination ensures no two of his shows are ever very similar. Picture: PA
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For such a seasoned comic, so comfortable riffing off the top of his head, the suggestion that Ross Noble needed a few shows under his belt before allowing reviewers in for press night this evening boggles the mind.

Ross Noble – Tangentleman - Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

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Although there were more pre-prepared anecdotes than usual, the capricious workings of his imagination dictate that he’s forever distracted by more in-the-moment lines of inquiry, with no two shows remotely alike.

There’s an ever-present tension that he might never bring closure to a tale, inciting the occasional prompt from the crowd. But he generally appreciates how far he can test their indulgence, having fun around the independence referendum and his dislike of the Ryder Cup, but backing up (relatively) fast when he inadvertently and insensitively finds himself talking about beheadings.

Audience members with distinctive, distracting laughs are an occupational hazard for stand-ups. But the Geordie conjured a sublime series of mimes out of one woman’s joyous squeak, the pair of them cementing an unlikely double act. In moments like this, and in an inspired outpouring of scenarios transplanting Al Jolson to contemporary Edinburgh, there remain few performers who can touch Noble for spontaneous creativity.

All of which makes his decision to share his more quotidian accounts of a doctor’s testicular examination and bowel trouble baffling. His expressive, animated delivery elevates these yarns. But they don’t dazzle with the same mercurial magic as when he simply juggles incongruous objects and concepts as they occur to him.

Jay Richardson

Seen on 26.09.14