Fringe World review: Slap and Tickle by The Kabuki Drop and WAYJO ·
Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA, 27 January ·
Reviewed by Jenny Scott ·
Slap and Tickle entertains with the unexpected pairing of saucy circus characters and and WA’s premier youth jazz orchestra.
iOTA, the celebrated WA-born ‘triple threat’ (actor, singer and dancer), stars in the central role of the clown-faced performer ‘Slap’, alongside Russell Leonard as his offsider ‘Tickle’.
Rather than a showcase of conventional clowning, Slap and Tickle is more of an adult cabaret-style variety night – although Slap is quick to declare that the show is not a cabaret but rather a ‘camp soiree’.
Throughout the night, Slap presents various characters – a sideshow mind reader, a glam musical theatre hopeful, a giant snake – while Tickle acts as the one-man support crew.
There is a loose plot surrounding Slap’s mistreatment of the long-suffering Tickle, and, while this tension is initially played for laughs, it concludes with an unexpected poignancy.
But the real focus is on the song and dance routines, as the two seasoned performers share the stage alongside twelve musicians from the WA Youth Jazz Orchestra (WAYJO). The all-original musical numbers range in style from jaunty show tunes to haunting and heartfelt ballads, showcasing both the vocal range of iOTA and the skills of the young jazz ensemble.
Last seen by Fringe World audiences in the 2017 show Average Joe, iOTA consistently impresses, whether he’s banging out big band belters or artfully emoting in a Tom Waits-style rasp. (Be warned: this show is loud, and the audience is often exposed to the full force of both the brass instruments and iOTA’s powerful pipes.)
The flirty moves and fancy footwork of Leonard as Tickle often steal the show, as he manoeuvres with surprising grace and impressive agility while wearing his gimp mask and booty shorts.
An innovative collaboration between Summer Nights, The Kabuki Drop and WAYJO, Slap and Tickle is a great opportunity to appreciate the local talents of Perth’s emerging jazz artists. With all you could want from a fringe performance – vaudeville high kicks, theatrical tumbling, confetti, drag, and jazzy tunes – Slap and Tickle provides a fun and funny start to the 2018 Fringe World season.
Pictured top: Russell Leonard (Tickle) and iOTA (Slap).