Review by Lily Stokes
COVID-19 forced Ross Noble off the stage for the first time in years. Thankfully, he’s decided to grace Australian audiences at this year’s Sydney Comedy Festival, staging his Comeback Special at the Enmore and Concourse Theatres. After a rib-tickling evening of surreal flights of fantasy, it’s clear that Noble hasn’t lost his mojo - he is still the supreme master of spontaneous stand-up, as riveting and energetic as “a squirrel in a bazooka”. Walking into the Enmore, audiences were greeted with heavy metal covers of ABBA, the backstreet boys and a bunch of other bubble-gum pop - clearly, we were about to witness something “mental”. As the lights dimmed, an enormous inflatable structure began to rise up from the stage, eventually revealing itself as Ross Noble’s ginormous head. It was quite fitting, as what ensued was like opening a door on his noggin to enter his manic inner world - a seemingly improvised web of comical tangents based almost entirely on heckling audience members. It really made me wonder whether I should go see his other shows at the Festival, as I’m sure each set would be entirely different. First thing’s first - if you’re planning to see any of Ross Noble’s shows, don’t be late. The comedy is very much based on a series of ‘in jokes’ established with the audience throughout the set, and if you can’t keep on top of them, you won’t know what the f*ck is going on. Recurring characters are peppered throughout the show, with their absolute absurdity made even funnier by Noble’s physical comedy. In this particular set, we were graced by the presence of King of Narnia, Aslan, as an Auslan Interpreter, the spirit of Greta Thunberg echoing in recycling bins, the founder of Aldi, Gunter Aldi, and, who could forget, Jim - the sex toy hunchback. Sounds nonsensical? Don’t get it? Well, you really just had to be there. And that’s my second piece of advice - to fully understand Noble’s genius, you have to see him in person. Admittedly, when researching before the show, I watched a couple of Noble’s sets on YouTube and was somewhat underwhelmed. Now, having seen him in the flesh, I wouldn’t have it any other way. He has a charming and conversational quality that makes you feel like you’re sh*t-talking over a pint in a Wetherspoons in the north of England. Despite being in a theatre filled with hundreds of people, Noble has a way of making you feel like he’s your best mate of years - you go waaaaaaaay back (or, at least, back to an hour prior when he first walked on stage). As is expected from a seasoned comic, Noble is incredibly skillful in the art of traditional standup. He jumps from one bit to the other, landing jokes perfectly and riding the wave until the brink of exhaustion. Just as you began to catch a whiff that one tangent might be ‘getting old’, he was already onto the next - and even funnier - bit. One particularly impressive moment was towards the end of the show, when he spent a good 5 minutes miming each of the absurd characters he’d introduced throughout the set. With side-splitting physical comedy, the audience was in stitches while Noble was in silence. His command of the stage had the audience laughing out loud, then shutting up so they could hear what he had to say next. Before the show, you could have described me as a Noble-naysayer. But after seeing him in his element, rambling to audiences after being held in a COVID cage, Mr Noble has won me over. If you’re a fan of good old fashioned stand up comedy, I’d 10/10 recommend seeing him at the Concourse Theatre this weekend.