Nothing says ‘Sunday night’ like a 41 year-old man stroking the synthetic hair of a naked female mannequin torso wearing a horrific Kiss mask. The man? Noel Fielding. The naked mannequin torso? Liam Messi. Confused? It’s fine. As Noel reassured an audience member, “I’ve got a face, you’ve got a face – it’s all going to fine.”
An Evening With Noel Fielding turned out to be one of the most extraordinary things I have ever seen, certainly at the Bruce Mason Theatre anyway. I did see a lot of John Rowles doing pelvic thrusting once, but Noel turned out be even more disarming, surreal and bizarrely magnetic. An audience full of Boosh fans packed the theatre, as you can see these two Old Greggs were absolutely buzzing:
I have seen a fair bit of The Mighty Boosh, but know Noel Fielding best from when I would fall asleep to pop panel show Never Mind the Buzzcocks every night during uni. It was a beautiful time in my life, I would often wake up urgently yelling George Michael lyrics. If you are unfamiliar with Noel’s schtick – he’s a sequinned shaman who uses his comedy powers to lure the audience gently into another dimension of reality. A dimension where Minotaurs not only exist, but they have the head of Nick Cave. A dimension where both sides of The Moon freely converse. Truly a better dimension than this dowdy old one.
We’ve seen his extreme array of surreal characters and glitter-glue-costume-comedy in The Mighty Boosh, but to see it outside of the telly was extraordinary. He swept on stage in a huge glittery cape, wearing a headdress not unlike something Finlay rocked during her version of “sexy Easter” on X Factor. Spending a solid half-hour delivering normal standup comedy (about as normal as you can get for a bit that opens with “I had a dream I was a tea bag”), he slipped into the deranged almost imperceptibly. “I’m a weird comedian and I don’t even get this next one” he laughed – before launching into a horrific ‘1970s chicken boy’ character. He couldn’t stop himself from laughing the entire time, it was a bloody joyous thing to watch.
From there, there was no return. Fielding was joined on stage by an array of bonkers characters – some of which were played by his brother Mike (Naboo from Boosh). There was Hawkeye the bird breaker of all deals, Noel’s muscular wife, Zorro and the Boosh’s The Moon and Fantasy Man. Freely they would improvise during their scenes, clearly trying to make each other break character. It really felt like Noel was just playing around, with a steely determined to have more fun than audience. That turned out to be an impossible task.
As the show delved deeper into its man narrative, a missing persons caper created more involved audience interaction than New Zealand audiences are traditionally used to. Amazingly, unlike other comedy shows I have seen, people were not only gagging to be chosen, but keen to ‘outbuzz’ Noel at his own game. There was a lady who claimed to be from Nandos Africa, and a man who rehomed Hermit crabs. Noel was as delighted as we all were to find such a strong freak convention on a Sunday night in Takapuna.
An Evening With Noel Fielding slipped from standup to song to sketch to Scottish Joey Ramone, and yet never felt ‘too much’. His cardboard costumes look infinitely shittier in real life than on TV, and his unique blend of batshit comedy and pure terror is far more palpable in the flesh. Despite the whopper runtime of two and a half hours, nobody wanted to leave. The finale of the show was exquisite and, spoilers aside, simply cannot be done justice through the majesty of the written word.
Kicking a cardboard unicorn off stage, Noel mused, “maybe if I had done something normal with my life I wouldn’t be up here with a cup tied to my chin in front of 1000 people.” The irony was that nothing had ever felt more normal, and no 1000 people had ever been so transfixed by a man with a cup tied to his chin.