Spencer Jones Is The Herbert in 'Proper Job'

Thu 6th – Mon 31st August 2015

reviews

Holly Harper

at 11:22 on 18th Aug 2015

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Self-deprecating comics discussing the prospect of “proper jobs” is a common occurrence, one that often begs a cynical response about the difficulty of doing a job you love for money. The funny thing about Spencer Jones’ performance is that this oft repeated joke at points seems painfully close to home. This was a show constantly in motion, recycling through props at absurd speed in the manner of a young child, from talking gorilla heads to groan tubes, the show giggled along with its own stupidity. This show revels in the ridiculous: by no means a proper job for a man of 39, but a job done properly.

It came as little shock when, on a brief scroll of Jones’ twitter, I discovered that only the previous evening the show had been cancelled as a result of “huge technical problems,” of which the hilarious abundance of props was probably the cause. This unfortunate mishap was rectified on Monday night, with Jones handling the only minor glitches with competence and guile. Indeed, it was the incident of the broken piano that perhaps worked most effectively to prove that this show was definitely not one that solely relied on props.

The lively atmosphere at The Hive was without doubt a helpful addition to Jones’ performance, not only was the venue suitably sticky and the audience welcoming, there were at least 2 people with ludicrous laughs. It was this suspiciously high concentration of such laughs that led me at one point to question whether these audience members were actually part of the show. Indeed, at points like this it felt as if the entirety of the bunker had been absorbed into The Herbert’s world of the ridiculous.

From low expectations came a performance that did exactly what a comedy should. Although it began with small and seemingly isolated set pieces, it grew into an ingeniously interconnected story. Jones’ hilarious construction of the show is something to be recognised, with the show ending on a rare example of audience participation done brilliantly - a lucky mix of both a warm audience and perfect comic timing.

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Chloe St George

at 11:27 on 18th Aug 2015

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The start of his show sees Spencer Jones, or rather his alter ego, The Herbert, creeping out almost apologetically onto the stage to an extremely smooth but rather odd musical opening. Fifty minutes and more props that you can shake a stick at later, this first impression – very good but very strange – proves to be reflective of the show as a whole. Herbert brings it to a busy and hysterical close with a musical number equally as bizarre as the first. The Herbert is an effortlessly endearing character, whose dress sense is as peculiar as his sense of humour. Comparisons to Mr Bean are justified by their shared sense of silliness, as well as their comically malleable faces.

At times I found myself wondering just why this show was so funny. Ultimately, I think it must be put down to the humility of Jones’ performance; free-spirited Herbert is clearly enjoying himself, at home on the stage, and this enthusiasm is infectious. He is aware of the ridiculousness of it all, as he makes clear throughout the show. ‘I’m 38…’ he says at one point, in what is part laugh and part sigh, aware that he probably ought to find a ‘proper job’, as his wife is constantly reminding him. Luckily though, he remains unfazed by this criticism, and silliness prevails. As a result, Herbert has his audience in constant fits of laughter, often without needing to say a single word. When he does speak, it is to offer some brief, witty bit of context, to stop the show from descending into complete insanity. For the most part, however, he lets physical humour and non-verbal sound effect do the talking. Laughs are guaranteed, whether the result of some carefully built up surprise or, as Herbert himself points out to us, just ‘the same joke three times’.

This show is utterly bizarre, unique and revels in the true spirit of the fringe. Prepare to laugh despite yourself; struggle to hear over the cackling in the row behind; and warm, perhaps unexpectedly, to the clown genre of the festival brochure.

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