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Gein’s Family Giftshop – Volume 3

at Pleasance Courtyard

* * * - -

Frenetic, fluid sketch comedy, that’s understandably a little depleted.

Image of Gein’s Family Giftshop – Volume 3

There’s a constant stream of young punters slowly filling up the Above room to bursting, many of whom are wearing the signature yellow of Pleasance volunteers.  There’s a sense of nervous anticipation in the air.  For the reviewer there’s also a sense of being late to a party; of dropping into an established cult.  It feels like Tom Cruise blagging his way into the orgy in Eyes Wide Shut.  Everyone’s masked, oiled and naked before he’s even unzipped.

Ed Easton is handing out badges.  Kath Hughes is dancing onstage.  Intriguingly, two guys are crouched at either side of the stage, both in the GFG’s signature outfit of standard school PE kit.  Once the audience is all present and correct, GFG launch into a dance routine involving many raising of middle fingers and an ironic pat on the head for Kath as she fails to completely rip through a sign labelled, “SEXISM”.  It’s a relatively low-key springboard from which to launch the relentless barrage of energy their fans have come to expect.

Gein’s Family Giftshop stick rigidly to their sparse formula of minimal props and very little in the way of costume changes or establishment of character as sketches ebb, flow and blend into each other.  The dark, occasionally tasteless material  suggests an unholy alliance between the black comedy sensibility of The League of Gentlemen and the spartan aesthetic of Lars von Trier’s Dogvillewith more jokes about pooh and dead parents though, obviously.

Easton and Hughes handle the bulk of the sketches as a duo, which may comes as a surprise to those expecting the third onstage member, James Meehan.  He decided to take hiatus from the troupe not long before the Fringe was due to start.  Easton and Hughes have tweaked where they can, and brought in a chap named Adam to perform as Meehan as the sketches necessitate.  In a resourceful move, he’s presented as a posh LAMDA graduate who bears the brunt of relentless bullying from his working-class colleagues.  It adds an extra frisson of nastiness to the show that perfectly befits the more unsavoury aspects of GFG’s comedy.

There are moments that are screamingly funny at the same time as making you gasp in shock.  Very few acts have the power to achieve that these days.  There’s the sense of a more juvenile, less hallucinatory take on Chris Morris’ warped sketch show Jam, and their devotion to their “jizz and bumholes” template is commendable.  However, there are some moments that drift away to nothing, and an occasional over-reliance on deconstructing their own processes. In the end one leaves with a nagging sense that it wasn’t quite firing on all cylinders. A very, very slight disappointment.

The two chaps at the side of the stage though?  Single best sight gag you’ll see this year.