Gobsmacked! That was my initial reaction when Spencer Jones walked among us, his nether regions sheathed in white tights, beneath which white underpants were clearly visible – a wardrobe malfunction that was deliberately and grossly drawn to our attention. Was he intending to “gross out” the audience? But in his persona as The Herbert, this comedian soon showed us why he triumphed at the Edinburgh Fringe by putting on a show which, while some of the humour is gross, combines physical dexterity with mental finesse, to make up an astonishing and memorable curiosity.
The Herbert is a gangling, gormless character with a speech impediment, who nevertheless keeps up an inconsequential stream of patter, which on its own is no mean feat for Spencer Jones to maintain. But he also does weird things with an unlikely array of props and sound effects. This is about as far away as one can get from normal “stand up” comedy. It is physical comedy, and it is surreal.
Although some of the weirdness is a bit sinister, Spencer Jones struck up a good rapport with the audience, and did indeed walk among us. This was perfectly feasible, as the venue is Downstairs at the Soho Theatre, which is laid out in cabaret style with tables and chairs and a bar at one end. The rapport certainly worked both ways, as several members of the audience, your reviewer among them, were invited onto the stage (an invitation one could not refuse) and given a variety of implements with which to accompany Mr Jones in a song about the meaning of life (or rather its absence).
So much was crammed into this tour de force of a performance that your reviewer, when he emerged on Dean Street afterwards, was surprised to find that less than an hour had gone by. This show is worth a lot more than an hour of anyone’s time. Try and catch it if you can, because there are only a few more days to go.