SPENCER JONES is THE HERBERT in 'EGGY BAGEL'

Thu 4th – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Becky Wilson

at 10:32 on 10th Aug 2016

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There are no words to describe Spencer Jones. His musical comedy puppet show hybrid act ‘Eggy Bagel’ is without a doubt the strangest thing I have ever seen. Kitted out in a luminous bike jacket, with huge, hunched shoulders and an inflatable stuffed down his tights, Jones certainly is not trying to blend in: not in appearances, nor, as it soon becomes apparent, in his comedy style. While other comedians, even the eccentric ones, remain orbiting around the earth, Jones is absolutely lightyears away.

His act manages to retain a sense of childlike wonder and spontaneity, despite being meticulously planned. The audience is constantly surprised by the bizarre, often arresting twists and turns of the show: like when Jones mimes a wall, only to gleefully announce that “there’s nothing there!”, or when he cradles baby dolls before unflinchingly using them as drumsticks.

He is also unswervingly resourceful: a single cap, placed on different parts of the head, is all Jones needs to differentiate between four distinctively different characters, and he uses a toilet brush, wig and sunglasses to impersonate an unnervingly recognisable taxi driver and Donald Trump.

After the latter, Jones speculates on his audience’s reaction: “Oh, here we go, fifteen minutes in and he’s gone all political.” He reassures us that this is not the case, but does not need to. It is clear from start to finish that Jones’ show is blissful, unadulterated escapism, needed now more than ever. Judging from the audience’s incredibly warm reaction and hearty laughs, they completely agree.

He seamlessly includes the audience in his act – one extended gag depends entirely upon the cooperation of someone sitting in the front row, and we are all invited to take part: Jones records our cheers then uses them as a soundtrack, with the aid of a loop pedal. He has a surprisingly lovely singing voice, and his solo songs are another highlight.

Jones, with his mad wide eyes, Mr Bean mumbling and limitless imagination, is constantly endearing. It is impossible to encapsulate Jones’ genius in writing: he is first and foremost a visual performer, and so I wholeheartedly recommend that you go see him for yourself. Spencer Jones is the Free Fringe at its absolute best.

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Ed Grimble

at 12:35 on 10th Aug 2016

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In a dank, sweaty cave of a room in an Edinburgh night club, cradling a pint like it was my last drink before forty days and nights in the desert, I experienced the totally surreal and side-slitting antics of Spencer Jones, as ‘The Herbert’.

Prop comedy is an often derided genre, and for good reason I think. It’s a difficult skill and years of uninspired offerings on the stand up circuit leave the audience skeptical as to whether this show will be any different. It is. Jones deserves to be seen as a champion of prop comedy; out of seemingly nowhere gag after gag is accompanied by some piece of junk, a homemade visual punchline. They’re so audacious that laughter always ensues. The phrase, ‘yo couldn’t make this stuff up’ is lodged in my head, and any attempt that I make to recount the jokes to others falls flat. They’re nothing without Jones, without The Herbert; he is the joke, the whole minutes is one long gag- and it’s fantastic.

Alongside this visual comedy Jones has in front of him a microphone and what is essentially a loop pedal. With a little help from some the audience he mixes bizarre riffs, skits, and melodies that form the surreal and deranged backdrop to some of the longer jokes in the show.

Part of the ongoing appeal of the show is the process of surrendering oneself to very much being down the rabbit hole. Nothing is beyond Jones’ imagination, it seems, and this is a show that refuses to pander to reason, logic, or routine. Large parts of the show go wrong (including the finale), but for some reason it simply does not matter a jot. So what if the intricate aquarium pump and vacuum nozzle rigged to suck tonic water through a series of plastic tubing spelling out ‘Eggy Bagel’ only manages forty percent before giving up the ghost- it’s still hilarious all the same.

'The Herbert' is, to quote drug-addled gonzo journalist Raul Duke in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, "one of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die." It’s bafflingly brilliant, and his underlying message to just “be nice, as that’s all we can do for certain”, is heartwarming.

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