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Gein’s Family Giftshop: Volume 3 review

| Comedy | 31/08/2017

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Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Gein’s Family Giftshop continue to push boundaries with a hilarious set of darkly puerile perfection.

With many sketch show rivals absent from this year’s Fringe, this was a great opportunity for Gein’s Family Giftshop to consolidate their place at the top table of their genre.  And despite missing a third of their performers due to a last-minute drop-out, Kath Hughes, Edward Easton and director Kiri Pritchard-McLean seized the chance with all six hands, delivering in Volume 3 a dark, chaotic and hilarious show that fuses the clever and puerile to perfection.

Their intelligence manifests itself subtly, through identifying the precise level of immaturity audiences will stomach and connect with.  And the group are so confident they’ve found the perfect pitch that the late-night crowd gets onboard immediately.  Whether Gein’s use a drawn-out contact lens insertion sketch to give the audience the finger, announce an affair aided by helium or contrive a contraband-smuggling scene so that Easton can shout “Where’s my poo?!” at a border official, the result’s the same: side-splitting laughter, exacerbated by the fact that you – and they – should probably know better.

Tall, dishevelled Easton is extremely impressive with his effected innocence and expert clowning – most notably in the simplest scenes, pretending to twist his head 360° or deep-throating a banana (“Hats off to anyone who does that recreationally”).  But Hughes – far shorter and red-haired – anchors the show superbly, brooding with aggression.

The broad and varied set revolves around their brother-sister-like bond, tightened by James Meehan’s late replacement with ‘ringer’ Adam Rowley, whom they shun for his acting credentials and southernness.  Like most successful double acts, the pair initially show no signs of sibling similarity, with Easton struggling to control Hughes’ scripted outbursts at audience members.  However, they later reveal more in common than first thought, when Easton – at Hughes’ instigation – agrees to select one of the crowd he’d take pleasure in killing.

That’s far from the darkest moment, unsurprising given the group pride themselves on their “brand of jizzy, blood heavy (separate) comedy”.  In Volume 3, their preoccupation with death trumps those more creative juices, evident when Easton informs Hughes that her mother has died through the medium of charades, and in another scene where Hughes pretends to kill a dog (mirroring Easton’s act in this idiosyncratic video short).  Their darkness eventually goes, perhaps for many, a step too far when they recreate a rollercoaster accident resulting in a bloodbath.

As Gein’s strive to push boundaries, and find the optimal point at which horror and hilarity meet, the odd misstep is inevitable and forgivable.  The few moments that don’t quite click come nowhere near to detracting from the rest of the show, which packs the room with hysterical howling.  Steve Martin once said that “Comedy is the art of making people laugh without making them puke.”  If that’s true, then this is undeniably great comedy.

Gein’s Family Giftshop performed ‘Volume 3’ at the Edinburgh Fringe during August at Pleasance Courtyard.  See Gein’s official website or follow them on Twitter @geinsfamilygift for details of their next London shows.

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