Is it possible to talk about the colour yellow for a full hour? Well, Rob Auton believes so and on Monday evening the basement theatre of the Bristol Old Vic attracted a capacity crowd eager to see him give it a go. Auton received rave reviews at last year’s Edinburgh Free Fringe for his latest work, ‘The Yellow Show’, with many critics celebrating his seemingly insane brand of curious wordplay.
Opening the night, Blah’s resident compere Byron Vincent led the charge with a poem that shone a spotlight on the advertising “PR lizards” that manipulate notions of identity in a capitalist society. Byron, in recent months, has always made a point of writing his poems for ‘Blahblahblah’ on the same day as the event and although this has proved a successful tactic in the past – reflected in reviews for this website - it felt like tonight fell just short of his usual high standards. Although the poem’s message was engaging in its content, the idea and performance would have benefited from further cultivation before being presented to an audience. I have no doubt, however, that next month will see a return to form for this incredibly gifted poet.
Relinquishing the boards to the headline act, Byron made way for Rob Auton, who plodded into the frame wearing a bulging yellow anorak that blended in with the large yellow tapestry at the rear of the stage. An explosion of colour had been splashed across the basement theatre as a vast array of yellow-coloured props littered the scene, from a blow-up saxophone to an army of little rubber ducks, not to mention the rolls of yellow crepe-paper that were unravelled around the room by enthusiastic audience members. Having set the scene visually, Auton ducked to the floor – no pun intended – to provide a musical accompaniment by using the microphone to amplify his phone which played ‘Yellow Submarine’. Remaining silent for the entirety of this opening ritual, there was a wild, almost unsettling element to Auton’s stage presence as he stumbled around, intoxicated by his own eccentricity.
Employing his endearing charm and an ingenious use of props, Auton delivered a spellbinding hour which although rather chaotic at times, never the less captivated the audience until its conclusion. It has to be said that much of the show makes absolutely no sense at all but it really doesn’t matter because once you’ve attuned yourself to Auton’s intriguing sense of humour, it’s impossible not to start giggling uncontrollably at his exploits.
From the conversations of John and Neil (a pair of talking yellow sponges, who used to be mates with a certain SpongeBob) to yellow-themed top trump cards, it was unadulterated insanity from beginning to end that had the benches guffawing in unison. The genius of this show is that he can make an hour fly by whilst talking incessantly and solely about all things yellow - or indeed his displeasure when things aren’t yellow. A particular highlight was a poem that berated some foolish decorators who painted his room... maroon. The rhyming potential was explored to the very limit here, resulting in a three-minute poem that served as a microcosm of the whole show, utilising Auton’s fascinating ability to take an idea and run with it, exploring every possible comedic avenue in the presentation of a single concept.
There were moments where Auton lost his way a little, especially near the end where some ideas didn’t quite work and the pace occasionally stuttered, but by the time he reached his final life-affirming poem, “I’m just trying to fight against grey-scrambled egg on a bed of death”, the audience were roaring in appreciation of this very strange, but wonderful show.
Photos: George Dallimore
Next month’s ‘Blahblahblah’ sees the return of John Berkavitch, who’ll be performing a scratch of his new show ‘Shame’, plus sets from ‘Slam Champion’ Harry Baker and the spellbinding Vanessa Kisuule.