Rewind one year ago, and Frankie Boyle appeared to have lost his mojo. After leaving Mock the Week to fester in its own lowest common denomination comedy in 2012, Boyle took a three-year hiatus from TV only to resurface with his Election and American Autopsies, which, despite containing some acerbic gags and flashes of his trademark wit, were largely dead-eyed affairs in which he looked like he’d lost his stomach for putting the boot into his victims. Sure, he’d still land more low blows in an hour than most other comics do in a lifetime, but his heart didn’t seem to be in it anymore.
Fast forward to 2017, and Boyle is back in business. After successful forays on Room 101, Russell Brand’s Under the Skin and a handful of other mediums, he’s back in Edinburgh with his latest stage show, Prometheus Volume I. Fans of his work will be delighted to know that his poison is still as venomous as ever, but that he appears to have spent the last 12 months sharpening his fangs in anticipation. Right from the get-go, he signals how the show will go down; initial pleasantries are altogether ignored in favour of the familiarly weird and perverse similes and metaphors that characterise his work. Then it’s on with the slaughter; the royals, Brexit and Trump are all predictable targets that are expertly skewered, but there’s also room for yacht-owning oligarchs (including, apparently, J K Rowling) and plenty of airtime to devote to his favourite stomping grounds of rape and paedophilia.
Not that it’s all fire and brimstone. Boyle takes some time out to indulge in rounder-edged sketches on the shoutiness of binmen and the French language, as well as a hilarious imagining of Isis’ recruitment campaign and an uncharacteristically benign interchange with a nonplussed Russian in the front row. On the whole, however, Boyle pulls no punches and confesses that he wishes we (his fanbase and trust fund) were all dead – par for the course then. A reliance on shock without incision does compromise some of the material, and Boylaholics will also recognise a disappointing amount of regurgitated jokes lifted from other outings. Still, it’s a resounding return to form for Scotland’s answer to a question the world was far too cowed to ask, and well worth forking out (and holding your bladder – no readmission Boyle, you sadistic shit) for.