Voltaire once quipped that London only became a truly great city after the inferno that engulfed and destroyed most of it in 1666. His point was that intellectual criticism which gnaws away at superficially strong structures – such as the church – will eventually reveal their inherent weaknesses, and is therefore beneficial.
I am not about to compare Rhod Gilbert to Voltaire. Rhod Gilbert is not Voltaire. Yet the metaphor may serve to highlight a brutality and vigour with which Gilbert approaches ideas which would make Attila the Hun think twice.
Rather than merely chipping away at general institutions with cynicism or wit, Rhod Gilbert blocks of certain areas of society (such as vacuum sales or Innocent Smoothies) and – sledge hammer in hand – goes berserk until there is nothing left standing other than his frazzled husk panting amongst the debris.
Apparently this temper – one which has been claimed to make Basil Fawlty look like the Dalai Lama – has sent him to anger management. Certainly your reviewer, who dared to sit in the fourth row, exited feeling physically exhausted after watching Gilbert’s rage.
Yet the show, while often relying on Gilbert’s frazzled state to get a laugh, is clearly thought out by a man capable of tying his comedy together, often managing to weave jokes into each other he is assured in his delivery. Clearly not the act of a mad man.
Indeed, it is worth considering if off stage Gilbert – like Clease – is actually a reasonably calm and considered chap, who discards his sweat soaked T-shirt and jeans for a smoking jacket and a pipe. Perhaps.
Gilbert’s humour lacks the rapier wit and precision of an Alan Carr figure, yet his sheer energy and sledge hammer approach to things manages to get the job done just as well.
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