review

★★★★★ Spoken Word About Speaking Words

Emily Pritchard reviews Rob Auton's The Talk Show at the Edinburgh Fringe

Rob Auton is a pleasure to watch and listen to, though his show can prove hard to summarise. It feels like a new kind of poetry, making you rethink any ideas about what poetry can be: which is, of course, what good spoken word should do.

His mind moves quickly and unexpectedly, ranging from the subject of time (“the watch is the wristband to the festival of punctuality” is definitely a stand out line) to whether a tic-tac can fit through the hole in a polo. If this sounds chaotic and nonsensical, it’s not, for throughout the show, Auton talks about talking, and all the weird and wonderful things there are to talk about.

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The show can be delightfully silly, and Auton clearly finds great joy in playing with language, for example describing a mouth as a “word wallet” and “tongue garage”. However there are also moments of great poignancy: Auton cleverly controls the mood to a minute degree. For example, when he drops leaves to the floor one by one, imagining what each would say as it falls, what could have been ridiculous is instead taken seriously by everyone, and has a sombre beauty to it.

Auton talks of overhearing hilariously weird conversations and wanting to mummify them, and it’s hard not to wish the same of his performance. In a way, his work is mummified, and available to take home in the form of his three poetry books. However, Auton will keep you coming back for more in person, as there’s something mesmerising about his straightforward, Yorkshire voice, saying things that open your eyes and ears to the world.

Although Auton’s show doesn’t explicitly engage with politics, it can’t be a coincidence that after previous shows on subjects such as sleep and the colour yellow, he chose this year to talk about talking. At a time when huge divides and prejudices split the country, it is vital that we talk to one another, whatever it may be about. The act of talking, Auton suggests, is often overlooked and taken for granted, but is in fact a great gift, which we should make the most of, something that this show certainly does.

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