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ED FRINGE REVIEW Jack Rooke, Love Letters

★ ★ ★ ★

Filthy jokes with underlying heart.

"Sometimes it's easier to show your ass than your feelings" a Madonna quote referenced at the start of Jack Rooke's third hour which helps set the tone for Love Letters.

In both 2015 and 2017 Jack's shows were all about feelings as he discussed the passing of his father, mental health and male suicide - and it was in 2017 which Jack had what he describes as "the worst year of his life". So he's not talking about mental health anymore, instead this year's show is about "cock and shagging blokes" - the "ass" part of that Madonna quote if you will.

This is Jack's first year in the comedy section of the Fringe brochure and it's where he and the show belongs. Appearing to be much happier, Jack's a naturally funny storyteller, telling jokes about things you don't usually hear on stage. Jokes told with great warmth, humour and friendliness rare to find at the Fringe.

The room, although a 200-seater, feels intimate, with fairy lights on the wall, roses hanging down and an actual harp on stage, complete with live harpist Alexander Thomas who plays throughout the show. The harp could quite easily have become a gimmick, but Jack doesn't let it become one. It's there to provide background music to his material and never becomes the focus, he'll occasionally reference how good looking Alex is or name the tunes he's playing, but that's it - and the way Jack pronounces "Camila Cabello" is worth the ticket price alone.

Whilst there are tales of meeting men on Grindr and having festival sex it's not all about cock, it's about learning to love yourself with tales of brotherhood, friendship and acceptance which really pack a punch and offer a narrative on being gay that's not often heard.

Previously claiming to be an only child, Jack opens up about his two older (occasionally homophobic and always straight) brothers and their reactions to him being gay. But this isn't Jack's coming out story, mainly because he doesn't have one. As he discusses in the show there wasn't one single moment in which he came out to everyone - he just announces it when appropriate, much like when a flight is delayed.

After being asked to be Best Man at his brother's wedding, Jack speaks about attending his stag do and being told "I bet you're shagging loads of birds in London" to which Jack's older brother stepped in with a line that was more profound than he probably meant it to me. But I'll let Jack tell you what it was as.

Jack has created something really special here, with stories that are beautifully written, hilarious and heartfelt with some moments really sticking with you long after the show. Including a not-lingered-on point about his sister-in-law not having long left, his relationship with his brothers and a shocking story about the way Jack cut ties with his best friend at school who came out as gay.

An hour spent in Jack's company is a joy, like a warm hug, a natter with a best mate, a chat you don't want to end. It's good to see Jack much happier on stage, much more comfortable with his material and telling filthy jokes with underlying heart. And if that didn't convince you, national treasure Graham Norton went to see it last week and loved it.

Jack Rooke: Love Letters runs until 24th August at 7.30pm at the Assembly George Square Gardens (Piccolo). Book tickets here.


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