Rob Rouse at New Greenham Arts, Newbury on Saturday, May 14
AS eager to please as Ronnie, his over-friendly mongrel featured on film to start the show, comedian Rob Rouse bounded onto the stage full of the joys of spring to tell the tale of The Great Escape - the upping of his family’s sticks from London to the Peak District. The move proved to be a fertile source of material for Rouse, as characterful neighbours and the local wildlife welcomed his family with open arms and a lot more besides.
From a neighbour grateful that Ronnie had slaughtered his chickens because it “saved him a job” to lively pensioners Bill and Margaret, stories of village life blossomed in the telling, mulched up with the joys of family life with a potty-training toddler and long-suffering partner. Former geography teacher Rouse explained that as he embraced the joys of country living he took on the challenge of living off the land, in particular taking his obsession with roadkill to extremities beyond the comfort zone of his vegetarian girlfriend.
As warm and comforting as nettle soup and packed full of gently exaggerated anecdotes and insights into the skill of “contact technique parking” (“you don’t need parking sensors, that’s what the bumpers are for”), the two hour-plus show flew by with no obvious padding from its original 60 minute Edinburgh Fringe format. I particularly loved the Polish-“speaking” dog, patiently retrained to understand English commands (“teaching its new owners four or five key Polish words didn’t seem to have been considered”) and a wedding reception where Rouse discovered that the villagers knew how to enjoy themselves with an iPhone.
The show built up to an extended denouement involving the rotting corpse of a roadkilled sheep in Rouse’s car boot, during which the suspensions of reality were stretched to snapping point. The believability may not have held throughout, but overall, Rouse’s performance was a breath of fresh country air.
- First published in Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, May 19, 2011