There is no doubt that Tom Flanagan is a skillful physical comedian. There are some truly impressive pratfalls in Kaput, the one-man show which won rave reviews at the Adelaide Fringe, and may well in Edinburgh too. It really ought to be great: the music and costuming takes us back to the era of Chaplin, where we’re the movie audience, with Flanagan the bungling and hapless projectionist in his flat-cap and braces. The props are thoughtful and stylish, adding to the twenties charm, which itself is perfectly suited to the Piccolo tent with its wooden pews and stained glass panels. The atmosphere, as the show opened, was one of intense excitement.
Kaput’s high-energy slapstick sequences were cracking, had the crowd united in laughter, and gave a hint of the gymnastic prowess Flanagan, a seasoned physical performer, is celebrated for. However, there was less of those “wow” moments than his reputation led me to expect and a lot of lulls, too. At times, the humour is mindless and crass – too many fart “jokes” to count, but then, for the younger crowd there’s probably no upper limit on those. At other times, Flanagan almost seems of the Pierrot school, clowning out wounded pride, or say, the desire to be seen as masculine and capable in the face of staggering evidence to the contrary: scenes of limited interest for the under-fives. Several younger children in the audience asked (or shouted) “what’s going on?” at various points.
This silent clowning *really* beat the screaming, though. In one scene, where Flanagan inadvertently starts a fire and bungles its extinction, there is a (conservative estimate) five minute non-stop screamathon. Some younger children were scared, a couple of people with kids left, there was no brilliant pay-off, and I struggle to understand how anyone could enjoy being relentlessly screamed at -and not much else- for that amount of time.
The show advertises itself as suitable for kids aged ‘three plus,’ and really, it shouldn’t. Despite Flanagan’s talent, in trying to be “something for everyone” Kaput misses the mark.