views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Guilt & Shame: Going Straight
Leicester Square Theatre
21st July 2014


Gabriel Bissett and Robert Cawsey

Photography supplied by Chloé Nelkin Consulting

My preferred approach to reviewing comedy is to know as little as possible beforehand. It means I end up seeing a wider range of shows than perhaps I would ordinarily choose. However, when I walked into a small, sweaty room, was handed a "hairnet of femininity" to wear and watched as an angry bloke ranted about "abnormals", I did wonder what I had let myself in for. Thankfully, Guilt & Shame: Going Straight is packed full of irony. It's downright filthy, funny, well-written and delivered by two comedians who are committed to their craft.

Taking on a character who is initially presented to us as a hateful individual is a brave move, particularly when you give him your own name. Gabriel Bisset-Smith plays the part of "Gabe", a raging homophobe, so disgusted by men who like other men that he has founded his own cult inspired by manly man Jeremy Clarkson. Robert Cawsey plays against him as best friend "Rob". For the first time, their friendship is threatened and it's all down to Clarkstianity. Can they sort it out, or will Rob being gay come between them?

The two comedians admirably stay in character throughout, only showing a brief flicker of an accidental smile towards the very end, when a superbly-timed heckle almost makes them corpse on stage. Almost, but not quite. Gabe is typically macho, insisting on downing pints, worshipping fast cars and chatting up birds by making racist jokes. As he does his best to initiate Rob into his new religion by explaining how to find his way around a lady's intimate parts, Rob's growing discomfort and Gabe's increasing desperation make for side-splitting laughs.

The material is sharp, with plenty of callbacks, repeated jokes and pre-recorded sound design. Bisset-Smith and Cawsey have clearly invested a lot of time in structuring the performance, keeping the pace quick and although reacting to their audience, never letting their script get completely derailed. This isn't the first time the pair have tried their fortune at the Edinburgh Fringe, and you can see this in the running time which comes in at a whisker under an hour. The scheduling has to be tight, but isn't a problem for Bisset-Smith and Cawsey, they've got that nailed.

The laughs come fast and furious, giving you very little time to digest everything that happens on stage. Bisset-Smith and Cawsey obviously take the traditional view that nothing is off-limits when it comes to comedy. They take taboos and smash them with a sledgehammer, so you could be forgiven for thinking their material is so entertaining because it's a bit silly and rude.

However, when you reflect on it, the hour is more intelligent than that. It raises questions about the validity of organised religion, it challenges attitudes towards stereotypes and sexual preferences, it dives into the meaning of friendship - as loud and as lairy as the show is, that's not all it is. Going Straight is a bit of a closet geek, you don't immediately think it's necessarily that clever, but it's just hiding it well.

Both halves of this very natural double act are great fun to spend time with, but not only are they charismatic and high-energy, they know how to put together a comedy show. When you take personality and good material, it's a killer combination. Whilst marketed as LGBT interest, Going Straight is a 60 minute romp which everyone should see, L, G, B, T or anything else for that matter. Definitely a hot tip for Edinburgh, follow that cow and learn all about the six steps of Clarkstianity.

Guilt and Shame: Going Straight ran on 21st July at the Leicester Square Theatre and from 31st July to 12th August and 14th to 24th August at the Underbelly, Cowgate, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. The show next runs from 9th to 11th October and from 16th to 18th October 2014 at the Soho Theatre.

Nearest tube station: Leicester Square (Northern, Piccadilly)

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