The Verse’s Tamara Stidwell reviews Rob Auton’s The Sleep Show, performed at The Old Market in Brighton on the 23rd March.
From his lanky-legged patrol across the stage to the mic, I can understand why one reviewer dubbed Rob Auton “the awkward best man fumbling to remember his speech.” But his too-long beard and too-short trousers were anything other than an autonomous ultimatum. Rob is the real deal. Deliciously Northern, the best way to describe Rob Auton is if Ross Noble and Tim Minchin had a love child, bred on the streets of York, left out in the rain long enough to get sad and poetic.
Am I alive? Rob Auton asks himself. He has ascertained that yes he is, after the self-server at Sainsbury’s asked him ‘Do you want to continue?’ And he thought “go on then.”
Rob is funny because he is awkward. Watching him stand on stage, surprised that anyone actually turned up, he makes you feel like a proud mum. Nervously rubbing his hands down his trouser leg he enjoys making a big deal out of the fact that really we are all the same, we all try to get through life, sh*tting, eating and sleeping. Then we’re dead.
Initially, when reading his bio, I was worried Rob was going to be another pedantic poet pulling at the hamstrings of society’s old and fragile state and waiting for a knee-jerk reaction of something philosophical. But instead we kicked back and put our feet up! Guiding us on a meditated voyage of discovery about sleep –“that popular package deal we subscribed to since birth.” And thus, The Sleep Show was really more of an Awakening.
What happens to meat in heaven? He ponders, as though speaking his thoughts aloud. Does a cooked chicken die and go to heaven, only to become another dead chicken? I would say that these are important existential issues, but they’re not. Rob is the sort of comedian who doesn’t ask why the chicken crossed the road, but asks how many roads must a chicken walk before you can call him a real chicken.
His show was helped by the prop of a magazine ‘Take a break from yourself’ because isn’t that all what we want to do in our self-perpetuating time of irritable existence? Filled with child-like collages of celebrities saying funny things about sleep, as though prepared 10 minutes before the show, his lovely lanky stride took him back and forth, on and off stage to collect various other props. Including a red pepper to symbolise a Devil’s testical, which he then squeezed toward the audience with wonderful zeal.
There were awkward waits whilst he re-arranged himself, (the stage, not testicals!) And in these interludes it was enough to put one to sleep, but as soon as a yawn began he would begin another bed-spread on a completely wild and incredulous topic, which always, by some amazement, seemed relevant.
So, well done Rob, your dad, who “is fed-up of putting £200 in your account”, should be proud.