MILTON Jones took his critically-acclaimed show to Salford’s Lowry Theatre yesterday for its fifteenth night running. Eleanor Doward was there to watch…

‘Milton Jones and the Temple of Daft’ lived up to its name; the show was perfectly crafted daftness from start to finish. The theme, loosely, was exploration and adventure, hence the Indiana Jones-based title. Jones was showcasing his skill for word-play before the stand-up had even begun.

The show, rated four stars by The Guardian and Time Out, features Jones doing what he does best; fast, witty puns and surreal stories. I knew what to expect from Jones from his performances as a regular on Mock the Week, and was interested to see how he’d fill a whole couple of hours with his one-liners.

Loud country music blared in the background as we took our seats. The audience was buzzing already, and I spotted a few of Jones’ trademark quirky floral t-shirts on several audience members. Clearly, he’s got himself quite the fan-base.

Dressed in an eye-wateringly orange t-shirt, cargo shorts and multi-coloured boots, Jones was his usual slightly mad, slightly dishevelled self. That is, when he wasn’t playing his bearded adventurous uncle, kitted out in full explorer gear, in the guise of whom he began the show.

The first half was the better half. It featured Jones, as his explorer uncle, making fast-paced one-liners that had the audience in hysterics in minutes. The character of the uncle was a good idea; Jones’ comedy is so pun-based that it can begin to get a little dry. The uncle added variety, and with a little audience participation and a few gentle ribbings about Warrington, Jones had captured the crowd.

The stage was fairly bare, with only a big, blank screen behind Jones and a raised platform with a few chairs on it. This meant that we focussed on the busily-dressed Jones and his excellent use of props. The best part of the show, for me, came when Uncle Jones began pulling flags from his huge adventurer’s backpack. A Scottish flag came out after the Union Jack, and Jones narrated the flags as the voices of their respective nations with perfectly executed Scottish referendum jokes. It was political humour in Jones’ light-hearted, clever, yet slightly surreal style. I could imagine him doing something similar had he been given a section of Mock the Week to himself, like Hugh Dennis’ voice over section.

The support act, Chris Stokes, seemed an odd choice for Jones’ gig. He had a dry, self-deprecating, utterly anti-surreal humour; his was entirely observational comedy about his divorce and his useless plumber. The stand-up was good – really good in parts – but didn’t fit all too well with Jones’ style, and judging by the mostly half-hearted laughs, the audience seemed to think so too.

The second-half saw Jones firmly his comfort zone. Old quips that we’ve heard before on Mock the Week, Live at the Apollo and Dave’s One Night Stand were incorporated well into the bizarre story Jones drew us into, about a strange encounter on a train and a treasure-hunt.

Yet here was where Jones’ show started to lose direction, and maybe that was the point – at the end, he admitted, to resounding laughs, that his show had had no direction. Jones in many ways was on form, referring back to some of Chris Stokes’ jokes and to things audience members had said earlier in the way that he does so well. His jokes about Salford were great too – joking about how little is known about Salford, he claims he did research on it but “not just on Wikipedia”, and found that Salford was created by “John Salford Citation Needed”.

That said, the show started to consist of a lot of fast-paced dad jokes which weren’t successfully tied to the theme. The audience got a little lost, unsure as to whether the theme holding the stand-up together was teachers or travel or something else entirely because the emphasis was on the word-play rather than the story.

Jones claimed that all we would remember from the show were the words ‘purple Llama’; in some ways a metaphor for the stand-up show itself – bizarre. He got the audience involved wherever possible, introduced characters and brought on props, but still Jones works best when bouncing off other comedians, and his one-liners became a little tiresome after an hour or so. Overall, the show was good and reflected how skilful and clever a comedian Jones is, but the whole thing could have been a little more thought-out.

By: Eleanor Doward

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