Spank! is a show that fully deserves its exclamation point. Everyone involved in the show is incredibly enthused for the whole three hours, from the comperes and acts to the guy on the sound desk and the bartender. From the moment Chariots of Fire brought guest comperes Alexis Dubus and Jim Smallman to the stage everything was set for a brilliant variety show and it didn’t take long to get the audience on their feet and dancing. With every cry of ‘Spank!’ eliciting an ecstatic response of ‘We love it!’ from the audience, it was clear that everyone in the room was in the very best of moods.
Dubus and Smallman, despite not seeming the most natural duo, worked extremely well together. Dubus was probably the most successful of the two, finding numerous ways to work his anecdotes into their time on stage, but Smallman occasionally interjected a fantastic response and ensured that there was excellent repartee throughout. Both felt free to laugh at each other’s best moments, though for the most part they tried to remain professional. It was incredibly endearing that, as the night drew on, Dubus continued to emphasise how the audience was the best he’d had at Fringe, an admission that raised the atmosphere even higher.
The acts were of an outstanding quality. Shirley and Shirley were on first with a sketch on the Royal Family that turned some common preconceptions about the Windsors on their heads. A highlight of the night was Tom Deacon, whose routine went straight to the incest jokes and yet managed to charm the entire crowd – even the first heckler of the night was talked around by his diplomacy on video game consoles. Luke Capasso and Dana Alexander made up the rest of the first half, Capasso keeping his set short and sweet. Alexander’s more laid back approach dragged on a bit towards the end but ultimately proved a clever close to the first half.
After a twenty minute drinks break, during which the absolute genius responsible for the music treated us to some Lonely Island that had me crooning along – this is a show to see drunk, by the way – Dubus and Smallman introduced the best act of the evening. Piff the Magic Dragon stole the show and ensured that at two hours in the energy was as high as ever. Even the disappointment of no shows turning up for the Nude Promo couldn’t sour the mood, especially as a bolshie woman in the front row subsequently volunteered for the hell of it.
Chris Henry played up to the brilliant atmosphere with a quick but fun bit of audience interaction and overall his material, including both dance and stand up, went over well. He even managed to pull back a dodgy rohypnol joke with a cheeky smile, so forgiving and merry were the crowd. It was infectious. By the time Janey Godley delivered her powerhouse performance audience members were heckling to tell her how much they loved her. Eventually, however, the joy had to end and as Don’t Stop Believing signalled the end of the show I reluctantly left; I rather wish I hadn’t.
Spank! depends massively on its audience, but that said it seems to do very well at attracting a crowd of happy, friendly people who won’t resort to angry, ugly heckling. The result is a variety show unlike any other without any dips in atmosphere or awkward moments, where the most risqué humour can rub up against a magical dragon and his dog. Go.