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‘The show, when you boil it down, is just jizz and bumholes,’ says Kath Hughes, one third of Gein’s Family Giftshop, about half way through their debut hour. She’s partly right. This Manchester-based sketch trio revel in the dark, depraved and gross-out. Bestiality, death during childbirth and a blitz of masturbation jokes all feature in this troupe’s debauched hour. But GFG are largely one-step ahead of the audience and they employ nifty tricks to keep us guessing.
Hughes, James Meehan and Ed Easton’s performances are refreshingly nonchalant. There’s no faux-corpsing or over acting here, and they don’t embody new personas for their skits. Meehan’s the dictatorial leader, Hughes is the maltreated woman and Easton’s the ditzy, chaotic type. It’s no-nonsense stuff. Scenes bleed (sometimes literally) into one another and they use minimal props and costumes.
The sketches themselves focus mainly on bodily functions, but the journey to the punchline is always inventive and off-kilter. A chess player makes an unpredictable move, the secret behind the manufacturing of luxury coffee is revealed and, well, Easton gets his penis trapped in a cat carrier. It’s relentlessly puerile, and it can begin to grate. It could do with some more palette cleansers, like the sketch where Easton, quite hysterically, can’t sing in time to ‘My Sharona’.
There’s also an ever-present meta-commentary on their own material. Particularly Meehan and Easton’s bullying of Hughes who they consider to be the third wheel, and she complains about getting less stage time than her male colleagues. The abuse is all ironic, of course, and there are some smart lines about the boys’ dickishness. Hughes does get the last laugh, but it doesn’t exactly make things even, and the idea could do with a bit more development.
Gein’s Family Giftshop are undoubtedly talented, though. The subject matter’s base, but there’s intelligence and wit behind their toilet humour (written with off-stage member Kiri Pritchard-McLean), and they are pleasingly understated performers. You won’t see their punchlines coming, even when ‘coming’ is the punchline.
‘Gein’s Family Giftshop: Volume 1’ is at the Pleasance Courtyard, 10.45pm
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