Guilt & Shame

Guilt and Shame is a sketch show about the failure of a sketch show, or more specifically its utter breakdown. It's also a grotesque parody of 'controversial' comedy, signalled most clearly in a sequence where a series of slides with hand-drawn pictures of genitals and words like 'RAPE' plays over abrasive rave music as its two performers shout things like 'Yeah, guilt and shame. Rape, it's controversial!' This approach has roots in the work of Chris Morris, notably the anti-hipster sitcom Nathan Barley with its satire of the tiresomely lurid editorial policy of sugaRAPE (Sugarape) magazine. There's also a more theatrical side, as the show is repeatedly disrupted by an angry drug dealer seated in the audience, who wants the money the performers will receive when the show is over. Her interventions serve to bring every 'edgy' and 'dark' sketch to a self-destructive collapse. As a grimly exaggerated comment on heckling and the role of an audience in determining an artist's direction, it's very clever indeed; unfortunately it's not always equally funny. The problem with presenting yourself as a terrible and incompetent sketch group is that it's hard to tell when Guilt and Shame are meant to be doing 'good' comedy – which, if any, of their routines they intend to get laughs in and of themselves. So a few moments fall into a weird gap between 'it's so unfunny it's funny' and 'maybe it's actually funny', which doesn't do the duo many favours. As a result, the show's best moments are generated by its third character, a worn-out skag merchant with a murderous past who insists on playing roles in sketches she does not understand and confusing them with her real life, at one point believing herself to be a qualified doctor. There's a lot to engage with in this show on an intellectual level – but in some ways the sophisticated deconstruction of comedy from which it springs is ultimately counterproductive. Guilt and Shame take a few good shots at shock-comedy culture; they just need to make sure they're not shooting themselves in the foot.

Reviews by Richard O'Brien

The Blurb

Depraved new comedy duo for every bad decision you've ever made. Following a night of debauchery ‘Guilt & Shame’ try to perform their sketch show but the sins of last night return to humiliate them. **** (ThreeWeeks).