“To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub.” Yorkshire comic and writer Rob Auton isn’t one to back down from tackling big ideas. With well-received shows under his belt which tackled water and the sky among other subjects, his latest offering, The Sleep Show, found him navigating the so-called Land of Nod, and it was a deliciously strange journey.
After a brief opening set which showcased multiple facets of his output – including a neat subversion of introductions which was further helped by the arrival of some latecomers – the sound of the Chemical Brothers heralded the start of the proper show. Part stand-up, part storytelling, part poetry, and undoubtedly high on off-kilter charm, Auton was a warm and affable presence, and his oeuvre is similarly relatable.
The strengths of The Sleep Show surely lay in the universality of its theme – choosing to mine that topic for all he could, Auton was able to present a low-key hour which seemed simple and direct on the face of it but managed to pack in so much more. Appropriately for a dreamer, there was a keen poetic sense at play throughout, alongside more familiar stand-up rhythms such as a routine about the origins of the phrase “sleep like a log”. Melding observational comedy with a sense of wonder, this was a comic highlight, though Auton cleverly used the show’s concept to riff on more philosophical currents than just linguistic pedantry.
It’s the finale, though, which elevated The Sleep Show to a different level entirely. A bold detour from comic whimsy to something impassioned and personal, Auton used the premise of a letter from Santa to highlight the importance of sleep to him, and to everyone, and landed on the realisation that as well as enjoying sleep, he needs to do more to enjoy his waking hours as well. While in stark contrast to the surreal one-liners which were peppered throughout the rest of the evening, here he settled on a quieter but more profound climax.
A fitting and wonderfully theatrical end to a deceptively clever set, it coalesced Auton’s world view into something lyrical and poignant; unafraid to explore ideas rather than opting for a more overtly comic but less satisfying conclusion. We’re expecting big things from this accomplished writer and performer in the future.