Ross Noble: Nobleism Larger Than Live

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

Here’s a first. A big live theatre gig simulcast into dozens of Vue cinemas. It’s already been done for boxing, a Grand Prix and even a Genesis concert - so a stand-up gig is a logical step.

The Vue in London’s Leicester Square was air-conditioned like Sydney on a summer day, so getting over the sheer discomfort of sitting there freezing was quite a hurdle. With most of the cinema audience in situ for 7.30pm, we watched the audience arriving at the Liverpool Empire for the gig, with some staggeringly dull muzak blaring away , turning into a medley of Beatles’ covers.

Eventually the show began, revealing the stage bedecked with the customary Big Gig inflatable; in this instance a giant Ross Noble head with his arms spread wide, as if he had tripped and landed on his chin. The real Noble skipped out from behind the inflatable hair and launched.

He delivered as you would expect: a slightly tentative start leading into flights of daftness and imagination that only such a master improviser or an indulged, bright kid with ADD could hope to pull off. He paced the stage incessantly, forward and back, side to side, with a couple of cameras swirling about to follow him. At the theatre gig this would have been fine, but it was visually tiring in the cinema when there’s no rest. The fantastically sharp satellite image was complemented by crystal clear sound, sometimes too efficient, when you could hear every sniff or throat clearing. The theatre crowd were well miked, and the hecklers sounded as though they could have been in the same room.

Noble thrived on having audience members who lacked any sense of embarrassment or awareness of their own inanity, so the woman who pissed in a bin had no fear of chipping in repeatedly and much mileage was made of her contribution. He worked with the tributes that had been left on stage, grim little gifts and notes harking back to previous gigs. Watching, I had a strong sense of the trick being to keep talking, using whatever comes to hand and ploughing through some tenuous connections and word associations to eventually spin some splendid passing tales that you’re completely unable to recall five seconds after you’ve heard them.

Artistically and technically this must have been a real challenge. It was an extraordinary feat to pull off, and effectively managed a 30 date tour in one night.

However, being in the cinema was a fairly sterile experience. Despite the fact that the cinema audience was directly addressed from time to time, it still felt very remote. Our audience were clearly smiling and happy, but there was no atmosphere of shared enjoyment and exhilaration.

There should be a great DVD out of this night, but that will be when the editors have hacked away at some of the jarring camera moves and not necessarily hilarious phonecalls and audience interjections. As far as the performance goes, Ross Noble didn’t put a foot wrong and it was an admirable undertaking, but for a viewer it was no substitute for being in the room.

Reviewed by: Julia Chamberlain
London, October 21, 2007

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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