Fresh from a short run up in Edinburgh is Ross Noble's Noodlemeister, an epic improvisation show that never seems to end. Though he has a handful of anecdotes and funny stories he seamlessly segues into lambasting innocent audience members with hilarious results.
The show begins with a video presentation of Noble sitting in the theatre beside animated aliens, the purpose of which is to urge patrons to switch off their mobile phones - or beware the monkeys with bats and cheese spirits that will pummel and possess you. This surreal-ness sets the tone for the evening.
As the lights go up Noble rushes onto the stage with an enthusiasm and openness that belies the true level of professionalism and preparation behind his sprawling set. The show moves forward haphazardly (a weird sort of smooth chaos) throwing out bizarre thoughts - like Guantanamo prisoners of war involved in a conga line to an absolutely hysterical take on the inane counselling of Dr Phil ('You know, the guy on Oprah’). He proposes innovative methods for 'butt, back and crack' waxing and suggests and why a Muslim women burqa-wearing marching band would be a great idea.
It is fair to say that whereas several of the set jokes don't deliver the promise of their build-up, Noble knows that the real comic fuel of the evening lies largely in his seemingly off-the-cuff remarks and the abstract comic scenarios he suddenly dreams up and expands periodically over the course of the show. It is quite remarkable how far he naturally extends these little stories from the beginnings of a random observation.
For example, Jan, a pensioner in the front row, enjoying a pint with her bag on her lap. Who would have thought that she would be the source of the evening’s biggest and longest laughs. By the end of the nearly three hour show Noble has established that Jan is a drunkard with a 'lager genie' in her bag, fraudulently claiming her pension while on the run from a gang of assassins. Great stuff.
There were moments where the volume of laughter made it practically impossible to imagine a greater level of funny. At the end of the show Noble opens the floor to questions, giving the welcome impression of reluctance on his part to leave of the stage.
He tirelessly bounds around the stage as energetic and random as he was at the beginning, maintaining the quality delivery that helps his sometimes ho-hum illustrations realise their belly-laugh potential. At some point during the show he suddenly pointed out: “I'm like this all the time, you just happened to get two hours when the lights are on me!” That would explain it.