Festival preview: Gein’s Family Giftshop
After a darkly comic start to their Fringe career, Manchester sketch group Gein’s Family Giftshop assure us that the terror has only really just begun
This article is from 2015.
While talking on the phone to Ed Easton of sketch group Gein’s Family Giftshop, the signal is so bad that he hotfoots it out into the garden. Is he going to be all right out there? What if it rains? ‘It’s fine, I’ve got a hoodie. Though I only had one shoe on when you rang.’
Wearing a single item of footwear at 11.30am isn’t the oddest thing about Easton. He’s also one quarter of the wickedly funny sketch show named in ‘honour’ of notorious American serial killer Ed Gein. So how did that name come about? ‘At one point it was just Gein’s Giftshop, but the rhythm of that name isn’t especially pleasing. Gein’s Family Giftshop is a bit more pleasing to the ear. I loved the idea of an Ed Gein giftshop.’
For those blissfully unaware, Gein formed trophies from the body parts of those he had killed as well as others he had merely exhumed. Who knows what manner of objets d’art you’d find in his memorabilia store?
Unsurprisingly, an interest in deriving humour out of darkness is something that unites the four members, performers Easton, Kath Hughes and James Meehan – who all met at Salford University – plus writer Kiri Pritchard-McLean. ‘I’m fascinated by serial killers, though not as much as Kiri,’ explains Easton worryingly. ‘But it’s not like in an “Ah cool! Maybe one day!” way but more about how someone could do that to another human being. Obviously there’s laughter in the worst things, and it’s a coping mechanism to a certain extent.’
Though they had experimented with a half-hour show at the Free Festival in 2013, their first official Edinburgh Fringe show last year at the Pleasance caught the attention of critics, audiences and judges, leading to a nomination for the Best Newcomer Award. ‘I watched the League of Gentlemen religiously when I was a kid,’ confesses Easton. ‘But you’d be hard-pushed to find anyone who doesn’t like them. And Jam.’ Presumably the jet-black Chris Morris series rather than the sticky stuff in jars? ‘Yes! Though when Kiri and I write, we try to find a café with scones. So we do like both kinds.’
The group’s humour is dark, the writing is off the wall and the overall group dynamic remains very assured. So how about that tricky second show? ‘One of the things that’s written in our blurb is “more death, less jizz”. I imagine by the end of August, there’ll be too much death in it, and we might need to put some jizz back in,’ Easton laughs.
As well as worrying about the potential mortality / semen imbalance within their new hour, Easton has some personal aims for the Fringe’s duration. ‘My plan is to do the show and not get as drunk. Last year, I managed to write in three pints for me to have on stage; by the end of that, you may as well go out for another one. This year, I’m going to join a gym or go for a run or something like that.’ Drastic stuff, but let’s hope the clean living doesn’t stretch to those sketches.
Gein’s Family Giftshop: Volume 2, Pleasance Courtyard, Pleasance, 0131 556 6550, 8–30 Aug (not 17), 10.45pm, £8.50–£9.50 (£7.50–£8.50). Previews 5–7 Aug, £6.