It’s possible that Rob Auton is not for everyone. I mean, if on the comedy equivalent of Tinder (the Fringe brochure, presumably?) the type of comedian you’re looking for is brash, loud and alpha male (or female; let’s have no gender bias here) then you’re probably best to swipe left. That is not Auton, even though he does come from Yorkshire. (Excuse the geographical stereotyping).
If however you are attracted to gentle quirkiness, a spot of poetry, and someone using comedy to explore concepts of time, space and humanity then Auton’s latest, The Crowd Show, might well be for you.
It begins with him playing a game of rock, paper, scissors (or, as Auton prefers, “Nature, stationery, stationery”) with the audience and ends with a reminder of the importance of love and friendship, which gives you as good an idea of any as to the playfulness and ambition to be found here.
Auton’s humour is very English in the way that Alan Bennett and Victoria Wood are very English; self-deprecating, slightly withdrawn, cosily surreal, but with a bedrock of confidence underlying it all. Even if he does carry his script around onstage like a comfort blanket.
The theme of The Crowd Show is connection. It’s about how, as people, we need other people. This is particularly true for comedians, it goes without saying. Via excursions to Torquay, the National Gallery (the London version) and the deep dark blank reality of eternity that bookends our short time on this planet, Auton reminds us that the only thing that matters in life is the people we share that life with.
That’s hardly a revolutionary message but it is heartfelt. Indeed, the show’s climax offers up a speech that will have you wiping a surreptitious tear from your eye. Some Hollywood producer is no doubt already copying and pasting it into their potential Oscar-winning script.
But there is nothing big-budget about Auton’s show. It is small and sweet and if it’s your cup of tea – and aren’t we all tea drinkers when it comes down to it? – it will not only make you laugh but make you feel better about your place in the world. That’s not a bad return for the price of a Fringe ticket.
Rob Auton: The Crowd Show continues at Assembly George Square – The Blue Room, 14.20, August 7-15, 17-29