Comedy: Rhod Gilbert- The Man With The Flaming Battenberg Tattoo

RHOD GILBERT almost didn’t come to Aberystwyth this year, the November 10th show a late addition to an already long tour list. I worried slightly that this would impact on his performance – what if he was worn down from months of touring, from months of rolling out many of the same little anecdotes and jokes? Gilbert is somewhat infamous for the energetic frustration he emits during his show; it is something he freely admits himself, it’s a part of him and it’s a part of his act. Luckily for us in Aberystwyth, that energy was still there, simmering at just the right temperature, below the surface, ready to be unleashed in a two hour burst of finely-formed comedy.

Having seen Gilbert on his previous tour, ‘The Cat That Looked Like Nicholas Lyndhurst’, I had some idea of what to expect from ‘The Man With The Flaming Battenberg Tattoo’. Anger, pettiness and self-deprecation were all on the order for the evening. We had this, but I also felt that the act had evolved since 2010. Gilbert talked about his growth as a person in recent years, and the calm, jovial way in which he interacted with the audience and the slight meta-joke nature of the show felt like progress.

One of my favourite aspects of the show was the anger management diary. It was a prop that lay by the wayside for much of the performance, but whenever Gilbert reached over to pick up the slim, black notepad, a sense of anticipation rippled through the audience. There were funnies in this book, and they were especially good funnies. Each little snippet of passive-aggression in these pages fueled another story, another reason to laugh at the fickle nature of the world in which we live.

Gilbert appears to be a big fan of long words and long sentences. Masses of words per second spill carefully out of his mouth, Carmarthenshire lilt emphasising them just right, painting ridiculous images of things such as a man endlessly brushing his teeth with his timerless toothbrush, mouth gummy and bloody, surrounded by mounds of minty foam. Gilbert layers on detail after unrelenting detail, his arm flinging out wildly, maybe powering his unstoppable torrent, eyebrows raising and frowning, his face a pained picture of wild-eyed confusion at how ludicrous it all is. The attention given to the jokes that make up these rants is clear; they are ceaseless and several audience members around me struggled with a few basic life processes in witnessing it all.

Not everything shines as brightly as the hysterical glory of these moments. There are times when tangents are taken that ramble a bit too much with repetition and take too long to get to the punchline. You know that it’s coming, it just doesn’t come as soon as you want, and sometimes the lengthy build-up leads to a disappointing end. There are a few huffs of laughter in these incidents, but the writing just doesn’t seem as tightly-knit as some other segments; especially not in comparison.

That said, I will continue to recommend that anyone interested in comedy try and get tickets to a Rhod Gilbert show. Perhaps not every beat is as fine-tuned as the next, but for those that sing little laughing notes, and for the moment when the strings of anecdotes tie together to form the finale, it is absolutely worth it.