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Late Night Gimp Fight!
Published on Sunday, 15 August 2010

4.5 stars

Pleasance Courtyard (venue website)
Until 29 Aug, 11:00pm (11:55pm)
Reviewed by Craig Thomson

Late Night Gimp Fight is a five-piece sketch group, highly visible during the 2009 Fringe.  I wasn't able to catch them last time round, but they were a must-see for this year.  And so I found myself in Pleasance Beside, my favourite of the portacabins, at the end of a long, good Wednesday, standing in a long line for a sellout show. It became clear very soon in proceedings exactly why these gimps do their fighting late at night.

From a superb and slightly unsettling opening, the Gimps tell us that they were criticised last year for being too laddish, too masculine.  Their attempts to add a softer, more feminine edge predictably end badly, and it's then off full pelt into the rudest, crudest comedy you can think off.  It's to their credit that, in pushing the boundary of good taste, it never becomes mean-spirited, and the audience is always able to laugh along – albeit with some discomfort.  And when they do go 'too far', you realise it's all a knowing part of the structure of their set; it leads to a fantastic closing routine including, bizarrely, an inspired dance number.

Sketch groups are a common occurrence at the Fringe, and the Gimps have two unique selling propositions (in addition to the ribald humour) to help differentiate them from the pack.  The first, obviously, is the masks – although the pedant in me wants to point out that only one of the group seemed to be wearing an actual 'gimp mask', the rest looking more like luchadores masks familiar from Mexican wrestling.  They feature prominently in some routines, but are shed and donned by the performers as necessary – they're not always on, and for the most part the Gimps look like a bunch of fairly normal young guys.  Difficulty in talking through bondage gear aside, the connection with the audience, which is crucial to gloss over some of the sicker jokes, would be impossible if the masks were in the way.

They also do a neat series of multimedia clips which play over scene changes; they usually take off a familiar music video or TV commercial and replace the punchline with Late Night Gimp Fight, but also occasionally develop little skits further and undercut expectations.  This may well carry through into online material as well, but I haven't yet brought myself to visit the web address almost subliminally flashed up: it is a variation of one of the most notorious and traumatising viral videos of recent years (worse even than Rick Astley), so appalling that I won't even name it, since I don't want to be responsible for anyone who doesn't know about it finding out.  Presumably, the Late Night Gimp Fight version won't be as bad... but I daren't take the chance.

The sketches themselves are strong, well-written and performed, with recurring characters and themes neatly calling back earlier jokes alongside standalone skits.  This is all standard stuff for sketch troupes, and what you would expect from a well-publicised act at any big venue.  What elevates it above the rest, though, is their unrelenting commitment to be shocking; which really works, particularly in such a tight venue.

This show is really not for the easily-offended, and so is scheduled well after the bed-times of such sensitive souls: children, Daily Mail readers, and the like.  Those of us who brave the Late Night Gimp Fight will discover some of the blackest humour on the Fringe, blacker even than their patent-leather fetish hoods; and you'll also find yourself laughing as you peer into that darkness.

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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