SPENCER JONES is THE HERBERT in 'PROPER JOB'

Thu 4th – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Thomas Jordan

at 22:37 on 10th Aug 2016

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An evil penis, a groan tube and a baby with a fox’s head. If it sounds like it won’t make much sense…well, it won’t. But it really doesn’t matter. Spencer Jones’ big hit of Fringe 2015 is back via a sell-out run in London, and as usual his wacky and original comedy brings the childish out of the adult, and the adult out of the childish.

At first sight, Jones is a slightly terrifying figure: his hunchback, bowl haircut and bizarre white tights incite a temporary tension of the unknown. But this disappears almost immediately, however, his loveably childish shrugs and mumblings making grown adults giggle hysterically before a word has even been said. Jones’ first routine revolves around his collection of random, useless items. In short, he messes around with them. But the silliness with which he does this is so inventive that the resulting humour is at once both hilariously juvenile and brilliantly witty. Whether it’s making adjustable brooms sing, or reenacting 'I’m Walking in the Air' with a blown-up rubber glove, Jones’ antics allow even the most grown-up of adults to laugh at pure ridiculousness, guilt-free.

This paradox is overcome by the comedian’s self-mocking tone. At various intervals he uses sets of cartoon eyes to portray different members of his family, who each ridicule their relative in a unique manner: “What’s with the white tights?” the father asks, whilst Jones himself responds with his own self-ridicule: “I can vote!” Without this awareness of his own absurdity, the show might have descended into meaningless immaturity. As it is, Jones is able to combine the silly atmosphere of a Mr. Bean sketch with some genuinely relatable stand-up. Though there are times when it might feel he relies too heavily on his props to achieve this comedy, he varies his content and form enough that any lulls in energy are quickly whisked into a completely new area.

One of these lulls comes during the finale. The comedian’s attempts to loop and layer silly tunes using odd instruments falls flat, at first. But this soon turns into manic hilarity when four audience members are given instruments they have no idea how to use, and the chorus emerges: “What would you do in this situation?”. The final image of Spencer Jones simply sitting down in a now vacated audience seat and watching his awkward, mad musical creation just sums it all up: with self-awareness, immaturity can be made mature.

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Kate Nicholson

at 10:17 on 11th Aug 2016

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He thrusts, he giggles, he murmurs a lot.

Meet Mr Bean reborn, with even more eccentricity. A caricature come to life, Spencer Jones embodies the naughty child that all adults have learnt to suppress. The thing is, Jones is 40, over 6ft (I suspect) and very aware that his immature persona is out of place in the adult world – where Mr Bean was not. And this is exactly why the show is one of a kind.

His stand-up follows his own self (whether fictional or not) as he stumbles through a few life events – such as getting a new job and having a baby – seemingly never able to shake off the allure of acting with immaturity. He also manages to slip into a range of different characters, becoming his father, brother and even his own wife with just his voice, a pair of fake eyes and a great deal of innovativeness. His skill lies in his pretence to be the unintentional fool – he mocks himself excellently through other characters, whilst his use of props takes on the childish attitude we still maintain towards toys, for example, turning rubber gloves into talking figures.

However, his main communication with the audience is through gestures and facial expressions, usually indicating bewilderment followed by cheekiness, as he fiddles with the latest bizarre object he has discovered, such as sponges with faces drawn on (it’s best not to ask). He then takes clichés out of content, applying sentiment to foolish objects. Who knows where he came up with such ideas? Jones also pretends to have no idea as well, but this mask is actually part of a polished performance. He is self-aware but anything from self-conscious.

The only criticism I would have is for the few moments when his act seems to run thin on the ground, and his slapstick humour appears predictable. However, Jones appears to anticipate such, and instead turns the moments into unexpected hilarity with twice the energy.

I know, it’s difficult to explain.The thing is, you can’t; you just have to see it. I certainly never thought I would enjoy this type of humour, but it was the highlight of my day. The crazy-eyed man of white tights, who reinvents slapstick from a specific genre into the comedy which suits everyone – with just a cheeky grin, snigger and a few props. I would definitely recommend this – Jones doesn't go outside of the box, he reinvents it.

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