Rob Auton: The Face Show
Banshee Labyrinth, Venue 156, 29-35 Niddry Street
(August 6-11, 13-23, 4-5pm)
Review: Phoebe Walker
Faces. I’ve got a face. You’ve got a face. Everyone reading this probably has a face. Rob Auton certainly has a face, and he’s so proud of it that he’s brought an entire show to the Edinburgh Fringe all about…faces. Now go back to the first three sentences. Those phrases make up pretty much the solid bulk of Auton’s show. If I could go back and data-mine it for the word ‘face’ (and ‘eyes’ and ‘lips’ and ‘noses’ – especially ‘noses’) I think we’d probably be sliding into triple figures. If you’re expecting something profound, for most of this show, you won’t get it. Which is great actually, because Auton’s slightly-inebriated, Yorkshire Jim Morrison vibe is entertaining enough without having to get all zen about what he endearingly calls “the bit at the front of my head”.
It’s an odd one this, the sort of show that you can imagine audience members leaving to exchange cheerful “only at the Fringe!”-esque comments with one another. I think I’d really like to go to the pub with Rob – neck some midori, come fifth in the quiz – but I’m not sure if that can really act as a show recommendation. Auton seems to have a peculiar amount of self-orientated schadenfreude, commenting, half-gleefully, half-morosely, “there’s some bits of this that won’t work. And we’ll all know it”. Later he politely informs the audience they can leave if they want to (a trio of backpackers slithers out) and darkly throws out a time check: “It’s four thirty-four. If you were wondering.” I don’t think anyone really has much of a clue what’s meant to be happening, not even Auton himself, despite the presence of an impressive set of props including dried lasagne sheets, a World Cup sticker book and a CD of choral music. Variously described as a stand-up, a poet and a performer, Auton explains that he mostly just tells stories, some of which are better than others. A skit about Hitler’s messy ordeal shaving a bushy moustache, relentlessly evening up each side until finally, “Yes, Hitler! This is my war face!” draws possibly the biggest laugh of the performance. This is a world where Zippy is a midfielder for Japan and Anthony Worrall-Thompson lives in a tent inside your head.
I wish there’d been a bit more poetry; there was a promising start with a piece about a penis-pen, but it sputtered out, highlighting the fact that Auton perhaps doesn’t, as yet, have the greatest confidence in his own material. It’s well worth having a look at his website if you want to read some poems about fish, drilling, and kettles filled with human tears. And you really should want to. The set finishes with a long story (or anecdote, or poem – could be anything really) about faces, beginning with a mouse and an alien watching a choir perform and then going back through history to see what else humans have done. Unfortunately, alien and mouse end up at Dunkirk in 1944, the spoiler being that human faces have actually done some pretty sad, bad stuff. It’s an odd change in tone from the rambling eccentricity that prevails for most of the show, and becomes even more sobering when Auton swerves seriously into a thoughtful monologue about the faces he loves. But hey, the porridge was weird already, another lump doesn’t make much difference.