John-Luke Roberts is, for a certaint quotient, one of the staples of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Plugging away for years in various Free Fringe venues doing critically-acclaimed shows but failling to break through into the mainstream, one can only assume that the handsome, charismatic Roberts only stayed on the fringes of the Fringe through either voluntary force of will or deliberately alienating material. This confusingly-titled but joyously-executed hour of the absurd and unusually funny keeps just enough of Roberts signature wit and exuberance, whilst filtering it through enough of an overarching structure to provide a doorway into mainstream acceptance.
A joyously-executed hour of the absurd
The central conceit of the show, that John-Luke Roberts is creating an ode to silliness by anchoring his characters to an arbitrary absurd central point, leads to difficulty in criticism. Roberts chronicling and impersonating the "missing Spice Girls" – those ranked Mel A and Mel D through Z – is a funny concept but not necessarily enough to hang an entire show around, though one could then argue that that is the point John-Luke Roberts is trying to make. This does leave the entire strength of the show, then, to rest on the shoulders of Roberts' charisma and the quality of his material. It is a good thing then that one of the Fringe's stalwarts of alternative comedy is so delightfully bizarre.
In addition to the weirdness that makes up the majority of the show, Roberts manages to fit in a surprising amount of heart, too. Not only through his clarion call to other lovers of the unusual to embrace their enjoyment of silliness, but also through surprising personal revelations that carry the same punch as those that hold up most Fringe hours but instead here are reserved for a humorous footnote. Their understated nature adds to the humour of the show and allows the show to focus on its best elements.
Ranging from Military Spice to Facts About 'Facts About The Romans Spice' Spice and even further into the depths of absurdity, this show is a thin sheet upon which crudely-drawn but hilariously funny characters spring to life. Little attention is paid to the plinths which frame the stage and costumes are briefly explained mostly as being funny rather than being necessary. The show is based upon an oxymoronic review from the previous year stating that while the reviewer liked absurdism, John-Luke Roberts just didn't make sense. In a similar oxymoronic sentiment, this hour of thoroughly bizarre comedy is essential in its lack of necessity. Content to baffle, shock and confuse his audience into laughter with no inherent meaning, John-Luke Roberts has used this year's breakthrough hour to establish himself as one of Edinburgh's kings of weird.