Kaput @ Underbelly
There is often talk these days of kids being jaded and desensitised, unmoved by any spectacle that doesn’t contain computer-generated images or high-octane explosives, or that is digitally interactive in some way. The same could be said of adults. Tom Flanagan puts paid to this notion with his show Kaput, an adroitly-performed, infectiously enjoyable piece of physical theatre involving a broken projector, some comedic tomfoolery with stepladders, and airborne popcorn.
From the offset, Flanagan gets the audience in on the action. Rapport with the crowd is his strong suit and it’s this ability that carries the show through. Although well-choreographed, capably performed and imaginative, the physical theatre aspect of the piece is only one part of the formula. The biggest laughs came not from Flanagan’s inept grappling with an intractable stepladder, but from the faces he pulls at audience members at well-chosen moments.
This is a clever ploy, as it gets the audience on-side immediately, lets them feel that they’re in on the joke in a more personal way, and gives Flanagan the leeway to gloss over any fluffs with a wry, sidelong look at his spectators. This is not to say that he’s not a very talented acrobatic performer, or that his show isn’t physically challenging. Flanagan amply displays his abilities in this department at key moments with stunts that deliver all the more impact for having been used sparingly.
But, in a festival packed with countless more-than capable acrobatic performers, what makes Kaput really stand out is the comedic timing, wit and charm of its star. Guaranteed to make kids giggle and adults guffaw (there are some racy running jokes that only the grown-ups will get), this is a festival highlight.