When a show starts with the audience being given pink or blue hairnets depending on their gender, and various male audience members being asked to chug a beer, wank over a dirty mag and then punch a photo of a woman from Greenpeace in the face, one could assume that this is perhaps not the place for two young women sipping rosé wine who like discussing feminism to enjoy an evening of entertainment. Luckily for us, this is all in the name of satire, though whether that makes these experiences any less alienating is definitely debatable.
The premise of comedy duo Guilt & Shame’s new show Going Straight is that Gabe (Gabriel Bisset-Smith) has created a new religion based on Jeremy Clarkson’s ideas of how to be a man. With his formula to becoming a proper man, which includes mastering Clarkson’s technique of how to stimulate a vagina, learning appropriate pub banter, and finally, electro-shock therapy with a fork and a toaster, Gabe hopes to turn his gay friend Rob (Robert Cawsey) into a proper straight man. However, Rob is still lusting after his mysterious Midnight Princess (a man from the audience who was luckily very game to get involved) who he recently spent the night with, and Gabe has his own secret which has forced him into his harsh state of homophobia.
This is not high-brow comedy. My biggest laugh of the night came from Rob imitating Gabe in a silly voice (it really was a very good and hilarious impression) whilst other big laughs came from Gabe’s impression of Tom Cruise in which he waddled in with shoes on his knees, and Rob dressing up and miming to Elton John. The show is undeniably funny, but it is childish humour, and whilst putting shoes on your knees will always be hilarious (like seriously who came up with that all those years ago? Genius), I was expecting some slightly more clever jokes from the duo who have some very impressive writing credits between them. The whole show seems in a way to be an extended dick joke, and whilst I see the point that Bisset-Smith and Cawsey are making about lad culture and the hypocrisy of homophobic men’s love of talking about wanking and penises, yet disgust at the thought of gay sex, I’m not sure whether playing that stereotype in order to critique it is the best way to go.
Bisset-Smith and Cawsey themselves are very funny and they are clearly having a lot of fun, which is nice to watch. Their enthusiastic stage manner is infectious, and they certainly had no trouble in getting the audience to join in with their silliness, which included a dance based on pleasuring cocks through glory holes. As you might have guessed, this is not a show for those looking for a sophisticated night of comedy (at times I felt like I was at Butlins being asked to do the penis-themed hokey cokey) but it is a lot of fun, and underneath all the cock jokes and silly celebrity impressions there is a serious message, if you care to wade that deep.
Guilt & Shame: Going Straight is at Soho Theatre until 18 October. For more information and tickets, see the Soho Theatre website.