You could be forgiven for thinking, given the title, that The Talk Show will hold a familiar set up of sofa, desk, chair while a tanned host with pearly white teeth bursts onto the stage to interview some stars of the stage or screen. This show couldn’t be further from it (thankfully). Rob Auton has built a cult Fringe following for exploring seemingly mundane subjects: hair, sleep, water, faces, the sky and the colour yellow. Now, Rob’s talking about talking.
Rob Auton opens his seventh solo hour with a simple, honest approach. ‘Hello, what’s your name?’ he asks everyone in the front (well, second row – why do we humans avoid the front of a room?). Becoming acquainted with us in a very real way, he’s not there to riff on mundane jobs in IT to get laughs. Instead, he reads from notes on crumbled A4 (his favourite paper size). Beside him lies a plastic bag filled with some props including an envelope filled with dry leaves. Is this all an act? It seems refreshingly genuine.
Rob is freed on stage to speak about subjects he can’t tackle during everyday ‘small talk’. Rob spends his time working from home, the only colleagues offering support are the legs of his kitchen table. So, clearly, he thinks a lot, and when he gets the chance to break his day-to-day isolation, he takes it. Whether it’s in an exchange in the post office or the supermarket, he finds meaning in the power of words.
This is spoken word, not stand up, but there are laughs and amusing observations littering his monologue as he reads notes and ambles awkwardly around the stage. His voice carries even without the mic and, when he does use it, the emotional impact’s amplified. I hesitate in making an obvious comparison between Rob and the similarly hirsute spoken word master Dan Kitson. There’s a raw talent to Rob’s poetry, with a smattering of storytelling, that leaves you wanting more. There’s no satisfying beginning, middle or end to Rob’s stories because he’s pondering the big questions in life. What would leaves say as they fall to their death from a tree? How many different cows’ milk goes into your cup of tea? If working as an estate agent on Jupiter, what would be the big sell for a planet with only one moon? And, a real tension builder this, will a Tic Tac fit through the hole of a Polo mint?
Rob’s somewhat dishevelled appearance, awkward demeanour and northern accent means no-one (certainly not in London) will talk to him on the bus. Rob wants us to communicate. He sees the joy and humour in every day conversations. Rob’s glad that other species don’t talk in a way we understand, or he’d be distracted. He’s fascinated by the here and now, the past and the future. To previous humans we’re futuristic, while to future people we are historical. We owe it to them to notice what’s around us and value it, acknowledge it. We won’t get to see how it ends.
Rob’s performance style is clumsy but entirely endearing. He holds your unwavering attention with a gentle charm that takes you on a remarkably moving emotional journey. A thoroughly enjoyable, engaging and entertaining hour. It’s a free show but the content’s quality (and perhaps the power of suggestion uttered by Rob about a funny exchange he once witnessed for free in Pret) meant I dropped a note in the bucket at the end. I wonder if the tree sacrificed to pay for his art would mind being felled to make paper? Perhaps it’d shrug and say, ‘Better than bog roll.’ This is how Rob Auton makes you think, and it’s great to talk about it.
You can also see Rob performing at the Edinburgh Fringe in Frank Skinner’s new play Nina’s Got News, daily at 2.50pm, Pleasance Dome, Queen Dome, throughout August 4-26th.