Rob Auton: The Talk Show | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Soho Theatre, London
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Rob Auton: The Talk Show

Note: This review is from 2019

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Soho Theatre, London

No, he’s not making a pitch to occupy Graham Norton’s chair. The Talk Show is another meticulously themed show from Rob Auton, this one about a key tool of his trade.

It’s no great surprise that he loves language, given his job as a comedian-stroke-spoken-word-artist. He has quite a flair for it, casually dropping phrases like ‘tongue garage’, for mouth, into conversation – while also keenly documenting some of the quirkiest uses of English that he’s overheard on trains or in Post Office queues, or even in the melancholy of filling in a form for the dole.

The Talk Show is, in large part, a plea for more communication, especially with strangers: an activity he encourages during his brief icebreaking interactions with the audience, many of whom he already knows by name. 

It’s his experience that people don’t talk on public transport, even in the North of England where it’s supposedly commonplace. Although he concedes that could be because of his bedraggled look and rather intense manner, even on subjects as flippant as the relative size of Wotsits and Hula-Hoops. His dishevelled appearance befits his image as the part poet, part philosopher observing the world while not quite fitting into it. 

On stage, his manner seems similarly distracted and awkward, though clearly the show is much more tightly written than his lackadaisical demeanour suggests. His best aphorisms are like Simon Munnery’s - at once pithy, pretentious and absurd, and fully aware of those facts. They are sparingly scattered around, but a delight when they come.

There’s a sadness to this show, too, as he laments the missed opportunities for connection because of words unsaid, whether to friends or strangers. And this tips into the maudlin in a more abstract segment in which he imagines what leaves might say as they fall, dying to the ground. Such sombreness doesn’t quite chime with the rest of the show, but adds to Auton’s range.

Yet there is optimism, as well. He romantically seeks wonder and amazement in the everyday, trying not to take something as  quotidian but as miraculous as a bird for granted. This strand comes to the fore as he imagines being an estate agent on Jupiter, selling the delights of life back on Earth. 

Such notions combine with his deliberately unpolished performance to make for an engaging, thoughtful show that might be loose with its structure, its themes and its tone – but then life is rarely so neat, either.

Review date: 24 May 2019
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Soho Theatre

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