Dissecting the Fringe: Edinburgh Diary
Until last Saturday I had never seen Late Night Gimp Fight. This might seem like something of an oversight on my part given their prominence at the Fringe and in London over the past few years, but everything I had read and heard about the group had suggested that they were not what I was interested in, comically speaking. Sitting through their greatest hits in a raucous Pleasance Beyond confirmed this suspicion: rarely have I felt more out of place in an audience, or felt that a show was aimed at people other (i.e., younger) than myself. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy it. The troupe are relentlessly professional and dispatch their sketches with ruthless aplomb. A couple of the presentational ideas (sock puppets made using the legs of the performers, and a silent piece where all the audience can see are translucent gloves and other accoutrments) were superbly executed, and one of their songs was wittier than any ditty about bestiality has a right to be.
Nevertheless, there’s arguably less to LNGF than meets the eye. The point isn’t that too often they fall below the level of their best ideas – after all, this is true of almost any sketch troupe. Rather, what was surprising to me was how unchallenging the show is, in the sense of how closely it conformed to its audience’s expectations. Unlike the traditional late-night Fringe gig, with drink-fuelled heckles and put-downs and a genuine battle of wills (if not wits) between audience and performer, this was entirely slick and controlled from the word go. In fact, it put me in mind of a children’s show, albeit one marketed at children who found references to masturbation and paedophilia hilarious.[i] The edgy humour which is the group’s selling point was delivered in spades, but a show where the audience expects shocking material and is there precisely to see it is one whose edge is automatically blunted.