Comedy review: Rhod Gilbert: The Book of John, Pleasance at EICC, Edinburgh

Rhod Gilbert: The Book of John. Picture: Ian West
Rhod Gilbert: The Book of John. Picture: Ian West
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Rhod Gilbert’s had rather a rough time since his last full Fringe run seven years ago.

Rhod Gilbert: The Book of John, Pleasance at EICC, Edinburgh * * * *

His mother died from Alzheimer’s; his father had a heart attack and went blind; he endured a mini-stroke; his wife has the womb condition endometriosis, and they’ve struggled to conceive a child.

Added to this dreadful set of personal circumstances, Gilbert also acquired John, a driver to ferry him around as he recovered from his stroke. At loggerheads from the start, the Welsh comic credits the chauffeur as the muse who inspired him back to stand-up, so perverse and wrong-headed are his opinions. Confounding the incredulous comic on everything from the provenance of frozen prawns to the fertility risks of smoking, the pair’s crossed wires reaches its apotheosis in their mutual respect for George Michael, the late singer’s back catalogue affording Gilbert the opportunity for a tour de force series of contrived lyrical gags.

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Sharing from a book he’s compiled of John’s most ignorant utterances, the pair’s relationship settles into a pattern of heated exchanges, no more so than when Gilbert has to make arrangements for his mother’s funeral and visit the fertility clinic to check his sperm’s potency. While the masturbating-into-a-beaker trope is a familiar stand-up subject, he makes the socially awkward territory his own with a classic Gilbert shaggy dog story of failing to understand instructions and improper behaviour. Suggesting that his shyness causes him to blurt the most inappropriate thing at the most inopportune time, he experiences the other side when fans on a train pressure him for a selfie as he grapples with his grief.

Ultimately, Gilbert eventually finds common ground with John, appreciating that that which unites us is stronger than that which divides, even as his epiphany immediately backfires. Good to have him back.

Until 25 August

Jay Richardson

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