Stand On The Square, Edinburgh
Back in the 1980’s, as part of influential TV comedy troop The Mary Whitehouse Experience, Rob Newman became a household name. Shortly thereafter, with his partner David Badiel, he was one of the first comedians to play stadium-sized gigs around the UK. But then something went wrong and he dropped out of sight for quite some time. Now, after an absence of seven years, he’s back in Edinburgh, with this slice of anthropologically-inspired comedy.
The first thing to say is that it’s very original material and Newman approaches stand-up like no other comedian I’ve ever seen. It’s probably also fair to say that the results aren’t wildly funny, yielding smirks and knowing sniggers, rather than big laughs. This is clever stuff, perhaps too clever for tonight’s festival crowd, who’ve clearly come out fuelled by a couple of drinks, expecting something rather more accessible than what they’re given.
Matters aren’t helped by the fact that Newman seems decidedly ill at ease with his audience. He stalks up and down the small stage, putting everything he has into his delivery, the effort requiring him to mop at his perspiring face with a handkerchief, but he fails to establish any real rapport and that’s a problem. His wide-ranging talk is actually closer to a lecture than a comedy routine and it’s punctuated by a couple of songs, inexpertly bashed out on a ukelele, that fail to make any impact whatsoever. Perhaps in a more sober environment, this might have managed to generate more sparks, but tonight it comes across as something of a missed opportunity. Shame, because there’s a real intellect at work here, that fails to make a proper connection with its intended audience.