We’re barely a minute in and Ross Noble is performing an “erotically charged” love scene between two of his thumbs caught in the act by a returning husband.

This was inspired by someone in the front row who had given him a double thumbs-up with their hands a little too close together – evoking in Noble the sense of two thumbs pressed together face-to-face but forbidden from kissing.

Seconds later and he’s moved on to a “pisshead inspector gadget” couple who had arrived at his show with two shoulder-bag bottle-holder contraptions for their wine. He slings their bottle holders across each of his shoulders, borrows one of their broad-brimmed hats, and proclaims himself the booze sheriff.

Noble then confronts the “bandit” sitting in the front row who made the mistake of wearing a bandana across their face in place of a mask, clearly with the intention of robbing a stagecoach.

With his playful Geordie accent, Noble’s rants are a pleasure to listen to, apart from his frequent painful loud shrieks into the microphone that repeatedly had the whole room flinching. His squealing imitation of a guinea pig being smashed to death against a rock – inspired by a baby’s crying in the audience – was also as unpleasant for the audience as for the hypothetical guinea pig in question.     

The first 20 minutes of improvised madness drove the crowd into delirium, but as Noble brought in more of his prepared material the show lost its intense initial burst of momentum.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of laughs throughout, and while some may find his style grating or daft, longtime fans of Noble will find he’s still got it.

At a moment when he got trapped in a cycle of imitating the honking of a clown car as it hurtled towards the hee-haw of an asthmatic donkey, even Noble needed a timeout, asking: “Is this a show any more or am I just having a nervous breakdown?” 

Ross Noble: On the Go is on at the Garden of Unearthly Delights every night through to March 20, except March 16.

Read more 2022 Adelaide Fringe stories and reviews here.

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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.