Edinburgh Fringe 2018
This is a returning show for Edinburgh Fringe, having won awards at Adelaide Fringe. It is an engaging hour of brilliantly-costructed old-style slapstick comedy for families with a lovely story line and imaginative use of props and circus skills.
Australian Tom Flanagan is the character in the family show, Kaput. His style is reminiscent of the silent movies with Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Flanagan plays a slapstick clown with a story about projecting a film. The hapless character endures multiple setbacks but always finds an alternative and funny solution.
Clowns are the buffoons and comic relief of the circus world. “Clown” takes many forms. It can be a happy white-face North American-style, the sad hobo in the style of Emmett Kelly, the Marcel Marceau classic mime, the Auguste or “red clown” type, and often in Mexico, the clowns just wear a red nose. What they have in common is their ability to take everyday activities and items and turn them into comic sketches. Flanagan does exactly that.
Flanagan appears as a regular guy, in a white shirt, suspenders, black pants, and a cap, but we quickly realize that he is playing “the clown”. We feel his pain when there is an “oops” moment, we cheer when he solves a problem that seems logical to us but not to him. And we marvel at the circus skills that he handily incorporates into the show.
Kaput is the story of a character who has invited us to view his film, A Love Story. He sets up the big screen and old-style projector, distributes the popcorn (with some very funny bits), and settles in for a night at the movies. And then disaster prevails. Just when you think he has overcome an obstacle, another problem arises, usually of his making. It becomes an hour’s roller coaster ride of hilarity and pathos.
The show is performed to a piano soundtrack that perfectly complements the mood of each vignette. Although Flanagan doesn’t speak, except through a kazoo at the end, he deftly uses sound and visceral effects to enhance the narrative. He knows how to build a story, using some comic tricks, like making audience members his on-stage foils. Ordinary household items – packing tape, glue, a sheet of paper- become hilarious props in the hands of this talented actor.
There are squeals of laughter and lots of giggles from the little ones. At the end, there is thunderous applause.
The show is marketed to age 3 and up, although the younger ones seemed fascinated by the action-packed presentation. The use of the Spiegeltent gives the show event more of a circus feel, and Flanagan uses not only the full stage but runs up and down the stairs to create a sense of being enveloped in the presentation.
And in typical circus style, you can buy his merch at the end: a kazoo (which he says is “gold-plated” but I don’t think so!). Tonight there will be choruses of kazoos in the homes of the audience members as his young fans try their hand at joining his circus.