Manchester-based sketch group Gein’s Family Giftshop return to the Fringe with their first full hour, fresh from triumph at London SketchFest 2014 – and it’s a mightily impressive debut, packed with delicious puerility, applaudable invention and impeccable timing.
The show starts with a piece of choreographed obscenity. This sets the tone for the comedy to come, but thankfully things rapidly improve above the level of a rude dance, as smart, stripped-down sketches bleed into one another with barely chance to catch your breath.
The three bounce off each other joyously. James Meehan is a domineering presence with razor sharp timing and cutting Northern wit. Kath Hughes is deadpan and sardonic, sending herself up with
confidence, and able to shift between her default role as the beleaguered of the three to an intimidating stage presence. Ed Easton is a natural clown, energetic, hysterical and able to nail a Coogan-esque kind of stuttering awkwardness during exchanges. Although not on stage, they are guided by director and co-writer Kiri Pritchard Mclean.
I would hesitate to use the word ‘dark’ – as I’ve seen in other reviews – because although the group do visit uncomfortable and revolting places, it’s always done with one eye on a punchline, a quip or a physical set piece. It’s always a process with a point, and a laugh. There’s no other atmosphere being created in the room than that of comedy.
Whenever one element drops, another is there to save them. A sketch about coffee that may seem a pretty basic and unspectacular concept on paper is rescued in the joy of the interplay, and the delivery of Meehan. Hughes’s finest moments occur when she is jousting with one of the other two in one of their sharp-tongued interchanges. And Easton is brilliant to watch as he shifts from to shuffling to flustered to frenzied clowning.
Hughes refers to the crudity on offer by saying it’s all “just jizz and bumholes”. But you can’t fool an audience, and by that stage we all know it’s so much more.