It’s no surprise that a group called Late Night Gimp Fight knows how to get its audience going. Considering their risqué subject matter it’s pretty essential that they have a willing audience, but what’s impressive is that they maintain this laugh-a-minute atmosphere from beginning to end. In the first few notes of their rendition of ‘Born This Way’, hysterics erupt in the auditorium as if they were Lady Gaga’s support act. We can’t help but embrace them with the same shameless joy with which they celebrate that they were born this way: a group with hilariously deviant humour – also blessed with impressive falsetto range and graceful pas de bourrées.
Late Night Gimp Fight is a sketch group which lives up to its promise of “an hour of comedy like no other”. A quintet with the character and charm of a boy band (Head Gimp, Actor Gimp etc) – except they can sing, dance and write their own material – LNGF is very much comedy for this generation. As a segway between sketches, Late Night Gimp Fight insert their ensemble’s name or gimp character playfully into a series of familiar music videos/film excerpts ( e.g. 50 Cent’s P.I.M.P becomes G.I.M.P) – the sort of silly clips you’d watch on YouTube. The crude subject matter of their comedy is the kind you laughed about in the playground, and could easily be cringe-worthy if LNGF was not so intelligent and sympathetic in its delivery. I was near tears during an ode to a Henry Hoover that had recently lost its dad, and it takes skill to get an audience clapping along to a bestiality rap.
Their musical interludes are the highlight; the ensemble reinvents familiar tunes by drawing upon recognisable aspects of them. Strangely loveable toilet seat puppets don’t drop a note as their version of ‘Stand By Me’ plays upon the ‘bum bum bum’ of the bass line. LNGF’s clever choreography is courtesy of Steven Webb, and the interpretive dance is performed with surprising balletic skill from Matt Ralph (Jock Gimp). These sketches prove LNGF to be a multi-talented force, showcasing them at their strongest: as a unit.
However I will say the production overall – all in black, exaggerated acting – was sometimes reminiscent of a GCSE drama performance. Their one-liners are strong enough to carry the laughs without hamming up the performance. It’s pure genius to watch a man kill his friends and then discover it was all for a Scout badge – so it felt detrimental to the virtuosity of their sketches that there was absolutely no suspension of disbelief to lead the audience into twists like this. LNGF aren’t so funny when they’re trying to be funny. However, the organisation of the show between sketch and video, from costume to costume, was well balanced and impossibly slick.
Dare I say it; LNGF is comedy with a point. Under the eye of the Soho Theatre’s Artistic Director, Steve Marmion, LNGF’s brilliance is reined into a show which still has the atmosphere worthy of an arena tour. They manage to say obscene, difficult things without offending, to an audience that wants more. LNGF know what they’re doing and do it extremely well: we laugh when they want us to, clap when they want us to – we become putty in their dangerous hands which is just how they like it.
Late Night Gimp Fight is playing at the Soho Theatre until 5 May. For more information and tickets, see the Soho Theatre website.