“Blooming Buzzing Confusion”
Robin Ince The Stand Touring 2014 and 2015 Reviewed 12th August 4 stars
Robin Ince is everywhere this year. He’s got a show with Michael Legge; another by himself; guest spots at at least four others that I know of; BBC documentaries and radio shows and a daily blogging routine.
He’s a bit like Pennywise from It; a grinning clown with an urgent, manic laugh and tendency to pop up in every unexpected cranny. Unlike Pennywise, however, Robin’s ubiquity is due not to an otherworldy command of time and space but simply to being switched on all the bloody time. The man literally cannot stop himself from working.
In some arenas I find his hyperactivity and intensity as irritating as a mosquito with a microphone and a shouty disposition. But Blooming Buzzing Confusion was a revelation – whereas I’d imagined that Ince is more tolerable in small doses, he actually excels in an extended solo set.
In fact, I found this shortened version of his show (touring the UK and internationally this year and the next) left me wanting to catch the full version. Blooming Buzzing Confusion is a delightful ramble among the quirks and oddities of perception and the wonders of the human mind, illustrated by anecdotes and observation. The title is a description of categorical perception and while the show in this format doesn’t delve too deeply into the nitty-gritty of cognitive science, it succeeds in making both astute and hilarious insights.
Ince’s style works perfectly with the show. His frenetic pace is well-timed here; one has a sensation of freefalling between trying to keep up with his breathless digressions and racing ahead of him, trying to predict where he’ll go next. His impressions are magnificent – Robin Ince doing Brian Blessed doing Brian Blessed [sic] is a postmodern textbook entitled The Joy of Shouting. And although this is the second time I’ve seen some of this material, tying it all under one theme invests it with a lot more meaning and humour than it displays in isolation.
I’m also genuinely impressed by how cerebral some of Ince’s jokes are. I’m not familiar with his radio show or other work, but the impression I had before seeing this show was of a cardboard cut-out of a comedian: your stereotypical misanthrope who relies on schtick, and panhandling for his laughs. Instead, I found a thoughtful, passionate and earnest performer whose writing and preparation are as central to his work as his persona and delivery.
Although still not convinced that Ince works as part of a lineup, he merits (and justifies) his own show. Go and see the full version of Blooming Buzzing Confusion if you get the chance. He’s a tightly-wound individual and grates in confined spaces, but he rewards you increasingly with the more time and space you give him.