Aptly for a show celebrating the joys of a good kip, Rob Auton takes to the stage resembling Rip Van Winkle; all prog-rock mane and Catweazle beard. It turns out this is method preparation for an upcoming project, ‘The Hair Show’, of which he treats us to a snippet in lieu of a support act.
This turns out to be a splendid introduction to Auton’s comedy for the uninitiated before being immersed in the full conceptual dream state of the main attraction. There is light and friendly audience interaction, fragments of poetry, one-liners and observations about the world, evincing a childlike curiosity about his chosen topics.
Before ‘The Dream Show’ begins, a meticulously hand-stitched backdrop of a sleeping face with the show’s title spelled out in ‘z’s is set up. It turns out to be an apt metaphor for Auton’s devotion to his theme, which leaves no stone unturned during his exploration. When the canvas promptly detaches and falls to the ground after five minutes it seems apropos of the charming, ramshackle nature of the material.
Auton is not a comedian that relies on a constant stream of belly-laughs. He’s brave enough to let a thread develop slowly, throwing in tangents and consulting notes and DIY materials. Sometimes minutes drift by without an obvious punchline, but it’s all in the service of his main theme. It helps that the self-effacing Yorkshireman is never less than compelling throughout. His expressive face often bursting into an expression of baffled epiphany as he dives down another philosophical alley, he quietly and subtly pulls the audience with him to the point of rapt attention. No mean feat.
There are moments of meandering dream logic that don’t quite work. A diversion into a vision of oneiric Hell drifts away into the ether for instance, although it isn’t long before he finds traction again. He also mentions that one review criticised his mic-craft. It is true that he uses it sparingly; more for emphasis or during those moments when his voice drops to a whisper. In a small venue like The Stand it doesn’t matter, particularly with such a receptive audience; but it may be otherwise in a larger venue with a rowdier crowd.
Ultimately, sleep for Auton serves as a wider metaphor for his escape from the world due to anxiety. It’s not a subject unexplored through comedy, but this is a rich, accessible and original take on a difficult subject in a voice that is entirely his own. The material could perhaps be tightened, but that would risk losing a little of the considerable charm. A little trip into the world of Morpheus with Rob Auton is a fine thing indeed.