Tonight, Rhod Gilbert was on fire. I took it as a good sign that he was outside the venue talking to his audience before they came in, and that ease of manner continued throughout this show.
This year, Gilbert has abandoned the pretence of living in the made-up Welsh town of Llanbobl, where he "housed" his excellent 2005 solo Fringe debut and his less impressive follow-ups, so that he can talk about the real world, even though it constantly confounds him.
His opening patter about Edinburgh is a cut above the usual observational standards, a description of how he can hear occasional phrases delivered from the Edinburgh tour bus that passes by the window of his flat. Most often, he can hear proud comments about Scotland's history that move him in unexpected ways: "I was going to rehearse my show that afternoon," he says, "but instead I marched on Cumbria."
The rest of the show sees Gilbert as a kind of "D-Fens", the Michael Douglas character in Falling Down, but instead of running amok in Los Angeles, Gilbert snaps at Knutsford motorway services. Like a spinning top, Gilbert bangs his head against the logic of visible toilet-cleaning rotas and gets so worked up during his stop-over that he enquires as to why exactly the canteen's mince pies are award-winning, and won't leave until he's told.
Gilbert's vexation continues in a bedding store: he's baffled by the array of duvets on offer, and by the shop assistant questioning him about how "genuine" his use of a duvet would be. It all inspires yet more deliciously incredulous tirades: "This isn't The Italian Job, there's no dry run!"
Gilbert's momentum is so good that he can deviate to material that has a very different context without losing a laugh. This is the case with his trip to Afghanistan to do a gig for the troops. He says the trip was made to escape the demands of his much younger girlfriend (Gilbert is nearly 40), and he relays the tension of being in a theatre of war while also riffing on the battle of the sexes: "Is anyone else going out with someone younger who is killing them?" he asks plaintively.
Long may Gilbert's woes continue if they can provide this much comedy manna from heaven.
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