Edinburgh Fringe Review: Rob Auton, Just The Tonic at the Caves

Rob Auton begins by welcoming his audience. “Hello, what’s your name.  Where are you from?

“Are you from York? So am I?”

He’s long-haired, bearded, softly spoken, seemingly shy.  The props he has on stage are a plastic supermarket bag and a pile of battered notebooks.

This is Auton’s sixth Fringe show and he begins by telling us about the others. There was one called ‘Water’, one called ‘Yellow’. This one, he says, is about talking, which is why it’s called The Talk Show.

He has some enthusiastic fans in the audience, who have been sharing memories of his other shows in the queue outside the venue. They are tuned into Auton’s rhythm from the start – but it doesn’t take the rest of us long to catch up.

Not only is the material funny, poetic, observant and wholly original, Auton has impeccable delivery, pausing, peering shyly from beneath his hair and smiling quietly as each of his superbly written jokes earn ripples, waves and gusts of laughter.

Some of his jokes creep up on you, some of them ambush you, all of them take you by surprise.

Auton clutches his battered notebooks to read the mini treatises he has written about talking. It’s unconventional for a comic to read from a script on stage – but his writing is so precise and measured that you can understand why he needs to have the words in front of him.

He’s been asking himself questions such as: ‘Why do humans talk?, ‘Why doesn’t grass talk?’  ‘What would happen if grass did talk?’ Absurd, abstract, philosophical enquiry, which is interesting in itself, but which, combined with Auton’s brilliant use of language and perfect comic timing throws up laugh after laugh after laugh after laugh.

“If leaves could talk what would they say?” he asks, taking a handful from his supermarket bag and letting them fall from his hands, one by one, voicing their thoughts as they float to the ground.

The imagery he uses is of everyday things – bus stops, newsagents, childhood sweeties but his poetic descriptions, paired with his soft gentle voice, imbue everything with a sense of wonder.

It’s not all philosophy. For light relief Auton plays games with Hula Hoops and Knick Knacks, asking the audience to join him in some childish guessing games which unite us all in silly, joyful play.

There is not one wrong note in this show. Everything works.

And the show has an unexpected emotional heart which makes you gasp at its simplicity and beauty. Through jokes, absurdities and silly stories Auton has showed us how important it is to talk to one another, to say things to other humans. We’re all human beings, just like each other, all the same, all equal – but we need to talk to each other.

It’s not good to be lonely, he tells us. And thanks us for listening to him talking.

It takes us back to the start. It’s good to say: “Hello” to other people and ask them where they’re from. It makes us human. If we didn’t talk we might as well be living on Jupiter. If we didn’t talk to each other we’d be like leaves, or birds, or butterflies or blades of grass.

Until August 26. Tickets here.

Read more Edinburgh Fringe reviews here.

*****

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