Noel Fielding review – solo standup set is a holiday from reality

G Live, Guildford
Infuriating, mildly amusing and then wonderfully unforeseen, the Mighty Boosh man’s show has some reality-busting set-pieces

“I don’t know if people want me to get older,” Noel Fielding told a recent interviewer. This Peter Pan of comedy is our go-to talent for trippy, dippy surrealism, for childlike nonsense in Cuban heels and glam-rock makeup. But now the ex-Boosh man is 41, and judging by his touring show, anxious about how long he can keep this up. Between the jokes about his never having had a job and the nightmare scenario in which his (fictional) wife bears him a child, the show dramatises Fielding’s imprisonment in a gaudy but 2D plasticine world, from which he’s desperate to break free.

The show runs the gamut familiar to Fielding-watchers, from infuriating via mildly amusing to now and then wonderfully unforeseen. I count his endless tittering at his own zaniness in the first category. It’s much in evidence in an opening standup section, where Fielding reflects on age and recalls a recent monkey encounter in Costa Rica. There follows three reality-busting set-pieces. The one about Fielding dreaming he’s a teabag is effective: the world (ladders made of pasta and scenes of Chapmans-esque carnage in the sink) is vividly imagined and thought-through. Another, starring a chicken-human hybrid with a deep south drawl, peters out in fits of self-amusement.

The show improves when Fielding stops describing and starts animating these loopy goings-on. Act Two dramatises his kidnapping by – whom exactly? Is it his understudy Antonio Banderas (played in Zorro regalia by Tom Meeten)? Is it the Dark Side of long-time Fielding sidekick the Moon? Or is it the triangle who’s been romancing his wife?

As Will Adamsdale’s great Jackson’s Way act once instructed us, meaninglessness gets funnier the harder you work at it. Some of Fielding’s random juxtapositions are very amusing here, in part because – to a degree disproportionate to their significance – he’s deployed tech, costume and manpower to bring them to life. I love that he settles disputes in his show using Hawkeye tennis technology – as incarnated by his brother Michael, dressed as a bird. There’s also some fun seeing real-life Fielding enter and exit a filmed plasticine world starring Joey Ramone, a minotaur and a bald David Bowie.

The show’s highlight is more simple, though, as Fielding’s New York cop Raymond Boombox circulates among the crowd, quizzing them about Noel’s disappearance. Here, Fielding proves himself highly capable at plain old audience interaction: he’s generous, authoritative, cheeky without being abusive.

But back onstage, the crazy quest to rescue our hostage hero is starting to flag. It’s like a pantomime without a plot as, to no discernible purpose, Fielding brings on a wannabe Don Quixote and his pal Big Chief Whoolabum. This arbitrary wackiness starts to seem effortful, as Whoolabum harps on the recreational drugs he once took (disappointing that Fielding should justify his weird characters in such conventional terms), and a volunteer is strapped to a giant penis. It all adds up to an enjoyable holiday from reality, even if Fielding’s flights of fancy feel only intermittently inspired.

• At Hull City Hall (01482 300300) on 23 October; at Victoria theatre, Halifax, (01422 351158) on 24 October. Then touring.

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Kevin Bridges: you can’t be complacent in comedy

Never mind the broadcasts: TV doesn’t make or break a standup

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Brian Logan

The GuardianTramp

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