Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
Unlike most comedians Ross Noble does not take audience laughter and applause for granted. He does, however, expect that they will pay attention long enough to see if a joke is sufficiently funny to deserve their appreciation.
Brain Dump opens with a filmed insert of brightly smiling tap dancers cheerfully threatening violence against anyone caught using a smartphone. As with much of the show you can’t help but feel that Ross Noble isn’t joking – he really gets irritated about such rude behaviour. One can sympathise : most people would agree with Noble on daily irritants such as the use of phones in the cinema but his manner of expression is so intense it becomes intimidating. It feels like being in class with an especially attentive teacher who is on the look out for any student whose mind drifts. When a patron, caught sneaking out early, explains that she is ‘bored’ Noble’s outraged response goes on for ages. This is not a show where one would dare heckle.
Yet in the first Act the level of improvisation is so high that the challenge is to try and guess how much, if any, has actually been scripted. The delivery is not so much stand up comedy as streams of consciousness; beautifully spinning across a whole range of apparently unconnected subjects. Even when prepared material can be ascertained it has a bizarre edge that makes it sound off-the-cuff. Rather than present a rosy account of the Rio Olympics Noble obsesses about the inappropriate use of the word ’surreal’ to describe the experience of winning going on to present a hilarious picture of how the event would have looked had it really been surreal.
The Lowry actually becomes the basis for one of the best routines of the night inspiring speculation on how the song Matchstalk Men’ might be re-written to reflect the new inhabitants of the former docklands area.
Even at his most surreal Noble’s wordplay is fantastic. Prejudging people, he explains, is wrong but saves so much time. One lengthy digression involves him trying to describe the sexual technique that he has just euphemistically termed ‘Flesh Tobogganing’.
The second Act is less charming as it comprises a series of rants about the things that irritate Noble. There are a lot of them and the subjects (Brexit and other people’s children) are pretty obvious. Noble manages to avoid monotony by continuing his eccentric approach describing how to use glowworms to take revenge on those who use mobile phones in cinemas and the best way of farting so as to emit a sound like a disapproving sigh. Even so Noble’s manner of presentation – increasingly loud expressions of exasperation and violent body language – becomes wearyingly close to hectoring.
Brain Dump is an excellent show and well worth catching as long as you are prepared to pay attention.
Reviewed on 20 October 2016