Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Returning for a second year at the Edinburgh Fringe, Gein’s Family Giftshop is stripped back, stuffed and mounted with a macabre collection ..
Not quite as dark and League Of Gentleman-y as the name may suggest, this is nonetheless sharp and smart sketch comedy with some very likeable performers – Kath Hughes, Ed Easton and James Meehan onstage, while fourth member Kiri Pritchard-McLean is unseen in the darkness of the wings. The threesome will often drift in and out of characters, so much so that it’s pleasingly uncertain when they’re playing a maniac, or a heightened version of themselves. Or, as is obviously the case in some sketches, both at the same time. After a quick discussion to announce what sorts of parts they’ll be playing in the evening (only one of them is the token male), they kick off with a dizzying array of sketches covering everything from attempted suicide to long term kidnap. No, they’re not ploughing the most obvious fields for their jokes.
The show – or more specifically, the individual sketches – are at best when throwing away a gag over the shoulder with nary a pause for breath, whether it’s a counter-culture reference, or describing the taste of the contents of a drinks bottle. All three performers play twisted versions of humanity, the kinds of kids you remember being mean to small animals at school, and you’d forgotten all about until you see a grainy photograph accompanying a particularly grim news story. A good few of the jokes rely on a ‘pull back and reveal’, or at the very least a 180 degree turnaround, meaning that many of the scenes start in a very different place from where they start. To that end, it would be cheap and nasty to list favourites, but there are a number of very smart shock reveals that will delight each audience. Which is not to say that the performing trio are shy of doing jokes about defecation, blood, sweat and tears. And they do, often.
Amongst all the sketches involving pretty much every bodily fluid, there are some beautifully written jokes angrily attacking gender disparity and unchecked privilege, none of which, it has to be said, are as portentous and as clunky as this sentence. As we’ve indicated, there’s no value in spoiling the joke(s) by discussing the contents of those particular scenes, but you can’t help wishing that each sketch reached the dizzy, heady heights of those very smart gags.
Returning audiences might feel that the Giftshop is merely walking around in the stitched together skins of last years breakout show. But that’s being mean to Gein. For those who are late to the party, or indeed anyone who enjoys smart and occasionally nasty sketch comedy, Gein’s Family GiftShop is a prime cut of poisoned flesh.