top of page

Review: Stamptown (Soho Theatre)

Review by Harry Bower


⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


I’ll cut to the chase, Stamptown is an experience unlike anything else available in London right now.

As you pile into Soho Theatre the assault on your senses will have already begun, with the roller-skating, lip-syncing, fan favourite Dylan Woodley screaming “anything is possible” as the lights go down to start the show. Little does a fresh-faced audience member such as myself know how true that statement is. The next seventy minutes will whizz by in a tornado of chaos, slapping me in my face with confetti, smoke, morph suits, gunshots, sexy cowboys, condiment abuse, and a complete disregard for theatrical norm (and the Soho curfew). I say seventy minutes, if you’re lucky, and I do mean lucky, you’ll probably get to experience eighty or more minutes of the show because the performers are having so much fun. And so is the audience.

Stamptown, described as a “comedy meal” by presumed chef and compare Zack Zucker, is advertised as a “full-on fringe experience” in the form of a late-night variety show. Acts come and go, delivering their accidentally-world class cabaret performances. We see Natalie Palamides’ body split in two by costume and makeup to create a twisted (and hilarious) love story; an exceptional vampirical, camp Borat (?), attempts to jump scare the audience and our host; a scarily believable live-review of the show – it is press night after all – by comedian Marin Urbano; and a pulse-raising sexuality-questioning climax by Marshall Arkley, who uses his bullwhip and his – ahem – bullwhip, to levels of suggestive behaviour that might have been associated with the Soho district in London of old.


The genius of Stamptown is not actually in its performances, which are in themselves spectacular and worthy of their own productions, but in the way they are stitched together by Zucker. In character as Jack Tucker, a kind of horny, deranged PT Barnham figure, he conducts the chaos with a sadistic grin and uncomfortably likable seediness. Throughout, he interacts with the audience and his technical team; Marina and Maddy Bye the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum of the stage management world, and the intuitive sound and lighting technicians who are like co-directors, choosing the best moment to play a fart noise or plunge the stage into darkness.

The performers who are yet to perform, and have already performed, absorb themselves in silly play, re-entering the stage to steal more laughs from their boss. The majority ofthis interaction seems improvised, and it quickly becomes a game to everyone. The most satisfying moment for the audience is when Zucker himself is taken by surprise by his cast, revealing a smile which indicates he’s having just as much fun as the rest of us. At one point, a hysterical Soho Theatre manager character appears, worried about the regulations of the theatre and the office overlord Gary’s reaction to the show’s risky content. One would have to presume that, given the night prior had overrun so much that Zucker had to shout goodbye without the tech, this character was improvised thereafter and debuted the following night. Of course that could be wrong, but the fact it even crossed my mind is a reminder that Stamptown is a fully live, ever-changing beast of a show with an entire universe of narrative, in-jokes, and references funny mostly to those in the room, for one night only.


I could sit and write more about the eclectic performances, for hours. The adorably scary Furiozo, a mime act starting his by elbow-dropping a teddy bear and executing it ruthlesslybefore playing out a risky cops and robbers scene with an audience member, which pays off spectacularly. Kemah Bob, the standalone comedian of the night, ripping into ‘big salt’, the corporate machine that shovels sea salt down our necks. A brilliant circus performer and contortionist balancing themselves carefully to wild applause. A burlesque act as cheeky as it is sexy. It’s almost pointless telling you all of this, because each night Stamptown plays, it welcomes a mixture of different performers, drawn from a roster of circuit favourites, and international cabaret stars.

A bit of research reveals Zucker and his team are back in London for a very limited period before jetting off back to America, for shows in LA and New York. America’s gain is London’s loss – but Stamptown is now firmly cemented in my diary as a permanent fixture of any UK run they choose to put on sale. It is a unique formula of semi-controlled unpredictable chaos; a special brand of creative entertainment which simply cannot be matched for spontaneous fun. The high energy and frenetic nature of Zucker is pivotal to the success of the ensemble. He is the erratic glue which binds this scrapbook of zany, irreverent misfits together. It shouldn’t work – but it does. As soon as Stamptown develops a help-to-buy scheme, I’m putting down a deposit and moving in. And you should too.

Stamptown plays at Soho Theatre until 2024. For more information and tickets visit https://sohotheatre.com/events/stamptown-2/


Photos by Dylan Woodley

0 comments

Comments


bottom of page