John Luke Roberts: Look on My Works, Ye Mighty and Despair! (All in Caps)

Thu 3rd – Sun 27th August 2017

reviews

Clarissa Mayhew

at 14:00 on 16th Aug 2017

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Flying caps, wisecracks, [bleached cracks???]. Flying caps, wisecracks, [bleached cracks???]. This show didn’t so much make me laugh as make me laugh how I ended up in this strange show.

John Luke Roberts’s ‘extraordinary absurdist character comedy nonsense sort of stand up’ is utterly stupid and utterly amusing in equal measure. I laughed as I cringed, rolled my eyes as I giggled, and throughout wondered what on earth would induce a grown man to jiggle around on stage for an hour dressed in nothing but a strategically placed sock?!

Roberts treats us to a stunningly inventive repertoire of characters: ranging from Geoffrey Chaucer to a drugs smuggling hamster in a whirlwind show that finds much of its amusement in its own incoherence. Chaucer’s presence, for instance, seemed to serve little relevance other than the opportunity it invited for innuendo farce as his thick (and dubious) Middle English accent offered lines like ‘I lik to rim’ and ‘lik your wif but alt’. Much was made of the ‘lik’ joke - to thunderous applause from at least half the crowd.

Some of the highlights of the show were not in fact John Luke Roberts but the contribution of the remarkably game audience participators. One episode saw the metamorphosis of Roberts into a 21st century fuck boy as he chatted up a girl with cheap quips on gender politics and the classic but still funny line ‘having sex with me is like jazz: smooth, arrhythmic and after we’re finished I’ll explain why in fact you did actually like it’.

The background music was cleverly orchestrated to underline the absurdity of the confrontations onstage, fading to a dramatic quiet as an audience participant represented mankind in our final goodbyes before a model earth was chucked in a plastic bin. Much of the comedy seemed to depend for the most part on an acknowledgement of its own complete ridiculousness, underlined by the farcical attempts of Roberts, for once speaking in his own voice, to persuade the audience that this was ‘significant’ art.

The costumes too (which made up for their sparsity with creative ingenuity) were fantastic, if disturbingly explicit, with a combinations of kiddy ball necklaces and plastic leaf dresses giving way to vampire teeth and minimalistic towel arrangements through the performance.

The show was quirky and alternative - if fairly incomprehensible. As John Luke Roberts runs off stage for the final time, clasping the remnants of his costume to his nether regions, I wonder what I have seen but I think I like it.

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Mark Bogod

at 20:11 on 16th Aug 2017

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Well, we didn’t despair, but I don’t think we were overjoyed either. Throughout alternative comedian John Luke Roberts' new show, 'Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair! (All in caps)', the audience seemed staunchly divided. From the row behind me came a constant stream of laughter, from the couple in front came barely a peep and more than a scowl. This for me seemed to sum up a very hit-and-miss show.

Fortunately, the hits did come more frequently than the misses for Roberts. Over the hour, he adopts a great variety of characters, opening as naked Chaucer, and ranging through drug-struggling hamsters to a giant head in space condemning humanity to death. The variety in characters also allows Roberts to attempt a variety of comedic styles and broach a broad spectrum of subjects, from medieval to apocalyptic. This is certainly a show that is difficult to categorise, sitting in a unique somewhere between stand-up, sketches and a one-man show. The bizarreness of the title was no match for the bizarreness of this form.

The strongest parts of the show were his interactions with the audience. Roberts successfully put individuals up on stage in situations that were amusingly awkward without being embarrassing. and was skilled in bringing out their funny sides. Roberts also managed to deliver clever satires on politics and modern life in between the character sketches. This was certainly a show that put the alternative into alternative comedy, but with varying levels of success. Some jokes were predictable or overdone, and others simply fell flat. The near-nudity at the beginning of the show did not really add anything. I think most members of the audience didn’t really want to see his scrotum or expect his belly to play such a, um, prominent, part. And the penis jokes weren’t even remotely funny.

Despite that, there was a liberal scattering of truly funny moments which the whole audience really got into. The production was also well-done, and made great use of costumes, props, background music, and lighting. A particularly original moment was when the lighting technician himself got involved in the comedy.

‘Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair! (All in Caps)’ is not something I would have chosen to see normally, and having seen it, it’s still not something I would have chosen to see. However, it was refreshing to be exposed to a different style of comedy and some innovative content. This show is not for everyone, but as the row behind me demonstrated, there is chance it might just be for you.

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