Rob Auton: The Hair Show | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Paul Fleckney
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Rob Auton: The Hair Show

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Paul Fleckney

Having tackled such hard-hitting subjects as the sky, sleep, and the colour yellow, doe-eyed comic-poet Rob Auton has turned his attention to hair. 

As a living personification of his sixth show, he has grown his hair. As in, really grown his hair. He lopes onstage looking like a 1969 Beatle, or a West Coast biker who’s just discovered the Smiths. To complete the look, he is wearing a hair tie and has extensions hanging off his clothes, which frequently get caught in the mic stand. Were it not for the crisp skinny suit, you’d wonder if he arrived fresh from 20 years in the woods.

In his 60-minute rumination on the subject, Auton does pretty much what he’s done in all his previous shows – and that’s fine by me. He evidently cares deeply about each subject he examines, and while no one else is doing anything remotely similar, we need Auton to ground us. His thing is to examine at something we take for granted, from odd angles and unexpected perspectives, and ask questions of it with childish naivety. The magic of eyebrows is considered, as is our hair’s rate of growth, and how it can communicate.

But The Hair Show is, thankfully, not 60 minutes of mega-whimsy. If anything, all the wide-eyed innocence stuff sets you up for some sucker punches, when Auton out of nowhere delivers a line of gut-punching gravity and wisdom, which goes to the core of human experience. As one-twos go, it’s a highly effective one.

There is plenty of space in between these two extremes, though, and Auton tells homespun anecdotes about how his parents have reacted to his wild new look (which he started cultivating last September when he came up with the idea for the show). Being hirsute has had real-life consequences for him: people look at him differently, so do dogs, and he still seems upset by the dilemma he had about whether to shave it all off for his nan’s funeral earlier this year. 

What’s difficult to convey is how Auton’s shows proceed. They’re disjointed and don’t appear to have much structure, they’re just a straight line of the various bits and bobs he’s put together. One benefit of this is that The Hair Show – like his previous shows – is full of surprises. Even seasoned Auton fans have no idea what’s coming next. You wonder whether Auton knows what’s coming next. 

I swear Auton’s brain doesn’t operate in the same way as most comics. It’s not just the viewpoints he takes and the connections he makes, it’s the fact that, even after around ten years in the game, his mic craft is still rubbish. And also that, having come up with the idea of James Bond being Jesus and vice versa, he doesn’t pursue it with a joke or a little role-play. I’m certain that 99 per cent  of comics wouldn’t have been able to resist animating that premise.

A few times during the show, he breaks out into a melancholic little ditty, apropos of nothing, and it appears to be entirely for his own pleasure, before moving on to the next thing. It’s all part of his considerable charm.

In previous years, Auton has performed his shows in a claustrophobic dungeon within the Banshee Labyrinth. This year he’s in the Just the Tonic Caves, and this takes a little of the magic out of the show. It was still probably a compromise worth making though, as he deserves to be seen by more than 40 people each day. 

The only thing that brings The Hair Show a little below Auton’s usual standards, in terms of pure content, is his closing sequence, which lacks a bit of impact. But overall The Hair Show is delightful, funny and unique, and underlines Auton’s talent. 

He has six of these shows under his belt now, and in a right and just world someone would make them into a TV series. It would surely be a cult hit. Auton is an evangelist for the invisible, his shows a refreshing dose of humanity in the sharp-elbowed world of comedy, and there’s no one else like him in the business.

Review date: 7 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Paul Fleckney

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