Fringe review – Rhod Gilbert

Rhod Gilbert – What’s Eaten Gilbert’s Grape?

**** 

PLEASANCE COURTYARD (VENUE 33)

YOU can’t trust anything Rhod Gilbert says. He’s as bad as a prime minister confronted with an oil-rich despot who may or may not have weapons of mass destruction.

But with Gilbert you don’t mind, because he’s just as good at fabricating a funny anecdote as he is at recounting a true one – if indeed any of his tales are true.

Movie buffs will have guessed that the show takes its name from the film What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? – an oddball 1993 drama with Johnny Depp set in a dull town called Endora. Rhod Gilbert intends to draw parallels between the film and his own uneventful life in the equally fictional Llanbobl, so he begins by asking the audience in his gruff Welsh accent who has seen the film. About a dozen people raise their hands.

But cinematic ignorance won’t hamper enjoyment, because Gilbert narrates the film’s premise, using it as a prompt to lunge off on surreal tangents about his parents’ secret divorce; the pet dog that became a marital rival to his father, or his catastrophic attempt to learn Welsh.

At one point in this suspiciously unlikely routine, he recalls how The Scotsman called his Fringe show “slightly too inventive” two years ago, which he complains about for a few minutes before admitting that he just invented that review. By this point my brain was ready to burst like a post-modern bubble-within-a-bubble.

Thankfully it didn’t, and I was able to enjoy the rest of a show that is clearly scripted but performed with such enthusiasm that it retains its spontaneity. Gilbert is a great observational comedian, depicting the mundane yet preposterous minutiae of life and twisting them in his skewed, pained vision. He has a joke about the disaster that ensued when he mixed up his “invigorating” and “relaxing” shower gels which I cannot do justice to here.

There was the occasional punchline that fell flat, but he has enough original gags to last two shows. And if the comedy career doesn’t work out, there’s sure to be a place in global politics for a fib-maker of his stature.

• Until 27 August.

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