Rhys James: Spilt Milk

No use crying over spilt milk is a very commonly used proverb, and its familiarity and any possible connection to it is at the forefront of our minds as we watch this show. Whilst Rhys James doesn’t cry over Spilt Milk per se, throughout this show he verbalises many small frustrations that he has encountered like the overpopulation of foxes or having to endure the fame of someone else with the same name as him.

An intelligent hour of stand-up

The overall message of Spilt Milk is simultaneously pessimistic and optimistic because whilst detailing these rather low-stakes frustrations of everyday life, James consistently shows us how things can be worse or in the case of his one-sided competition against Ernest Hemingway, more sad. It’s hard to tell how much peace of mind comes with this realisation, as his tone moves along a scale between heavily sarcastic and venomous. It’s what makes this show appear so cathartic because James seems to be using this hour to find ways to move past these little moments and annoyances thinking through each anecdote out loud and using his thought process to focus on the bigger picture in life than the insignificant details.

This hour is built on anecdotes from James’ life; everyday observations and events that he has found himself in, during which he uses every moment that he can to add a deprecatory comment, either directed at himself or at an audience member. The observations that he makes are tightly written to portray James as somewhat relatable, or at least someone who shares some experiences with us. He darts around subjects, making connections within his material in a furiously rapid and deeply sarcastic manner. His humour is dry and performatively negative to the point where we start to mistrust James’ onstage persona and look for a deeper message behind the stark arguments to sweat the small stuff that he makes. In this way, James takes on the role of a philosopher trying to figure out the meaning of life, reading in between the lines of the frustrations of the everyday, to the point where he risks becoming stuck in the details. But if we listen carefully to the subtext of James' jokes, we can see that Spilt Milk’s message as an overall cohesive set is the opposite of what he verbally expresses onstage; that there’s more to life than the small annoyances, that it’s bigger than just the worst parts of it.

Spilt Milk an intelligent hour of stand-up, where James tricks us into assuming that it's shallower than it actually is, whilst instead it is like an onion; you need to peel back several layers of jokes in order to see the true message behind James’ comedic style.

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Reviews by Katerina Partolina Schwartz

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Performances

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The Blurb

Rhys James is right back in Edinburgh for a limited time only, fresh from a sell-out nationwide tour. One of the final Mock the Week regulars, House of Games bottle-job and tuxedo'd Pointless loser. Since his last Edinburgh stint he's released a third, ARIA-nominated Radio 4 series, appeared on Live at the Apollo, and been hurled through the air on a bungee cord by Micah Richards on A League Of Their Own, to be fair to him. 'Master of the lightning-paced, gag-dense, precision-delivered set' (Guardian). 'Scintillating stand-up' **** (Times).

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