If it isn’t obvious from the title, the 10:45pm start and the warning that says 18+, Spank! is not really your family friendly show. It is also definitely not for the easily offended and at some points not even for the mildly offended.
Spank! returns to the Southbank Centre after sell-out shows in London and Edinburgh. Each of the three dates sees a variety of stand-up, sketch, character and musical comedy. It may have been the slightly deflated audience – with only a couple of clumsy and interspersed hecklers – but everything at first feels rather awkward. The presenters James Wren and Leon Fleury do their best to wake up their subdued audience with some dancing and audience participation, but it is a relief to all when the first act is called on to the stage.
The first performers on this occasion were Late Night Gimp Fight. The duo performed a selection of short sketches, ranging from an uncomfortable take on Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’, Spider Man “ballsing up” accepting the keys to New York, and an inappropriate take on One Direction’s ‘What Makes You Beautiful’. The act’s sense of humour is incredibly crude although they never cross the line to unbearably offensive. The best sketches involved a fabulously choreographed sock puppet performance to Aerosmith’s ‘I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing’ and a headteacher who is full of unfortunate nicknames for the pupils.
Comedian James Acaster was the saving grace after a rather uncomfortable beginning. Acaster decided to abandon his prepared material and use his slot to talk to the audience. Although it would have been nice to hear what he had originally planned, it speaks volumes that thinking on his feet he still succeeded in cracking up the audience.
After a short break, the musical stylings of Vikki Stone were introduced to the stage. Stone is a bit like Tim Minchin – she writes witty lyrics to catchy tunes. Unlike Minchin however, Stone has a regular theme for her tunes: sex. She has a hilarious and clever song about Professor Brian Cox that is worth looking out for.
Finally, the headliner Carl Donnelly brought the show to a close. Donnelly’s comedy is based on anecdotes from his own life and material makes for fantastic comedy; it is obvious that he really understands the atmosphere of Spank!.
The next performance includes Katherine Ryan, Paul Zerdin and Sara Pascoe, so with some familiar faces the atmosphere may be different next time around.
The show ended as it started — I hurried out feeling very uneasy and confused. Of course, most of the acts are very entertaining but this show is definitely more for those with a crude sense of humour.
Spank! is playing at Udderbelly until 10 July. For tickets and more information, see the Udderbelly website.