Stamptown review – Soho Theatre, London ★★★★☆

Welcome to the madhouse, or rather this mad town – this is the variety night Stamptown run by host Zach Zucker, in character as the wildly inappropriate stand-up anti-comedian Zach Tucker. His line-up tonight includes comedy from ‘New York Time’ comedy critic Martin Urbano live-reviewing the show, the keyboard-wielding deadpan Huge Davies and New Zealander Nic Sampson with a new idea for a rat-run restaurant. In addition to the comedy, burlesque acts and nudity abound. The soundman Jack is a character in and of himself and a frequent trigger for the show’s chaos.

Throughout all of this there are frequent interjections from the roller-blading cis-male version of burlesque Dylan Woodley, the double-sided Natalie Palamides, Steffen Hånes’s The Master popping up to spook us, and the Siblings comedy duo as bumbling stage technicians, only here because one of them slept with Zucker – condoms are expensive, he tells us, “that’s why I don’t use them.” It reaches levels of meta never before seen on a comedy stage when Chortle editor Steve Bennett shows up to do a live review of Martin Urbano’s live review of the live Stamptown show.

It’s Zucker/Tucker who draws this all together – bringing a thread of coherency through the madness, even if that coherency is a little mad in itself. It’s a fantastic performance – he owns the stage; it is his stage, after all. You wonder at times how much of this clowning and chaos is real, and how much is a comedic construct – but it proves to be very real. At 70 minutes, it’s a more compressed affair than the usual Stamptown running time and within the first thirty minutes we’re already running behind – not that we mind, such is the bizarre entertainment on display.

And we don’t quite make it to the end, with the clowning having gone on so long that Marshall Arkley, the final act, has had his erection tied up for too long (no, I can’t believe I’ve written those words either) – he has to relieve it and can’t perform. With Soho Theatre threatening to pull the plug as the show runs beyond its scheduled ending time. Zucker brings out Arkley to prove he exists and manages not to wince when the muscle-bound Arkley says, unprompted, “No I don’t want to slit your throat with a rusty spoon,” before, finally, Zucker is left to prove he can project with the best actors as Soho Theatre cut the amplifiers and he shouts his farewell to us. We leave wanting more chaos, more madness and a little more Zucker.

Stamptown is at Soho Theatre until 27 January 2024