I’d seen the photo of John-Luke Roberts last year whilst scrolling through possible Edinburgh shows – and, let’s face it, that photo does stand out, with his blue moustache and his fangs, fruits and flowers. I didn’t click to read more; I think it reminded me of when Graham Chapman used to occasionally interrupt sketches on Monty Python, with the words “stop that; it’s too silly.” But when I saw that he was bringing the show to our local theatre, and that it had garnered five-star plaudits at Edinburgh last year, I thought it was worth a punt.
You’ve heard of the Theatre of the Absurd? Mr Roberts is a practitioner of Comedy of the Absurd. I can imagine him planning a show, coming up with ideas, and then discarding them because they weren’t silly enough. I’m not sure I’m his natural target-market as I usually prefer my comedy to be more sophisticated, more nuanced. However, Mr Roberts is such a likeable performer that it was impossible not to be blown away by all his random ideas in this hour and ten minutes of utter joy.
In the best Brechtian style, he set out his comedy store at the beginning of the show, explaining what he wanted to achieve, how he would weave certain phrases or ideas into the meat of the show, and how, at the end, he would lift up the silver food cloche on the table in the corner of the stage, to reveal an item; and if we didn’t fall about laughing, he would have considered he had failed. No pressure on us there, then.
At the heart of the show, Mr Roberts introduces us to the 24 missing Spice Girls. We know Mels B and C, but what about A, and D through to Z? As we meet more and more of his bizarre but beautifully crafted characters, we start to lose the plot as to what’s going on, but it doesn’t matter. It’s much more fun just to watch the hurt caused between Facts-about-the-Romans Spice and Clarification-about-the-Facts-about-the-Romans Spice; to watch the confusion caused by That’s-not-my-husband Spice talking to a woman in the audience who wasn’t his wife; and to join in the ludicrous hilarity of Old Crone Spice with her shapely bosoms and long nose, which I had to operate whilst Mr Roberts’ hands were doing other things. (All perfectly clean, no worries.) He also enjoys a hotline to God, and I think it’s fair to say they both give as good as they get.
Does that sound absurd to you? Absolutely. And also extremely funny. And when he lifts the cloche at the end, there was one more absurdism awaiting us that did, indeed, make us fall about laughing. Surreal it may be, but it is also meticulously structured and honed to perfection. I shall certainly be looking out for Mr Roberts’ future shows. A very enjoyable break away from the harsh realities of life. We loved it!