Rhod Gilbert: Who’s Eaten Gilbert’s Grape
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2007
Rhod Gilbert watched the movie What's Eating Gilbert Grape? recently. He was struck by the movie's parallels with his own life, which was fortunate as he had already decided to call his new show Who's Eaten Gilbert's Grape?. If Gilbert Grape's life had taken a slight detour, then Rhod Gilbert's life has fallen asleep at the wheel and driven into a ravine.
Gilbert picks up the story after his Perrier Newcomer-nominated show 1984. That was about the worst year of his life; then things got worse. Book early to guarantee disappointment
Some people just shouldn’t be trusted with titles. Rhod Gilbert’s creaking attempt is based on little more than the coincidence that he shares one name with the protagonist of a little-seen 1993 Johnny Depp film.
But the contrivances don’t end there; he’s decided to stretch a whole show about the parallels with his own life. Or at least his own fictional life, which is just one miserable disappointment after another. Like Gilbert Grape, he argues, he was born in a town where nothing happens. And they both had a mother and a brother. Incredible.
Luckily, however, what sounds like a truly bad idea on paper works out excellently in the execution. Over his past two solo shows, and countless times on the circuit, Gilbert has proved himself a talented exponent of the comedy of gloom. So even the fact he’s chosen the wrong movie to theme his show around is all grist for his mill of bitterness.
Gilbert’s reaction to anything rubbish is not to moan meekly, but get grumpily angry at the injustice of a fate that could dare deal him such a wretched hand. How could he possibly be Welsh? Or 40? The intensity of his uppitiness is always appealing, and the way he expresses it, lovely.
Much of his routine is old-fashioned observational comedy, but approached from a cunningly oblique angle. Gilbert’s never going to start a segment with ‘What’s the deal with shower gel…?’ but gets the same point across in an unexpected way. Then bang on about it entertainingly in callback after increasingly passionate callback.
Mixed with this are more fanciful flights of imagination, about dogs looking like their owners, for instance, and a story of him meeting his current girlfriend.
The routines alone are good, solid bits of stand-up, but it’s here that What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? makes its thematic reappearance, as that was the film he was watching in his lonely hotel room when this fantastic woman came into his life.
Now his obsession with this cult movie makes perfect sense, especially as it provides him with an unexpected and inventive payoff few will see coming. It proves a skilful way of tying up his various stand-up bugbears and personal stories, providing a satisfying ending to an unflaggingly enjoyable show.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett