Review: Slap and Tickle at Fringe World

Nerida Dickinson

High energy variety entertainment, showcasing the strong talents of all performers in a variety show with a clever narrative arc.
Review: Slap and Tickle at Fringe World

Slap the clown and Tickle the gimp are a smooth double act, their shared strength combining their contrasting skills and talents to entertain, amuse and dazzle in a fast-paced series of performances. However, Slap’s love of the limelight and callous disregard for Tickle escalates until the harmony between the pair ruptures, splitting the otherwise predictable narrative arc’s ending into a touching parallel close of liberation and despair.

iOTA as Slap is a delight to watch, each moment celebrating his diverse strengths on stage, fluid transitions between styles and characters as both vocal chameleon and rapidly switching to occupy strikingly different roles with full immersion. Comic self-adulation, melancholic posing, shocked introspection, limelight hogger, crude and uncouth charlatan – all of these and more are apparently effortless for iOTA with boundless energy and triumphantly demanding attention from any point on the stage. As his faceless sidekick, Tickle the gimp, Russell Leonard is no slouch when it comes to dynamic physicality. Leonard plays Tickle with loyal and unobtrusive support of Slap’s exuberant and extravagant displays allowing the clown to shine, but it becomes clear that Tickle has his own vocal talents along with snappy dance skills that complement Slap’s moves.

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Opening with an anti-cabaret ditty, Slap and Tickle progresses through a range of genres, characters and moods. Featuring torch songs, vaudeville double acts, a yobbo mind-reading magician and served with abundant slapstick clowning, there is never a dull moment. Even once repetitive routines establish their mutual reliance, the pair’s dynamic abruptly and unexpectedly shifts. Keeping it simple, iOTA’s ability to leap between roles with quick yet creative costume changes and his impressive rapid investment in and out of characters, the performance maintains a cracking pace.

While live musical accompaniment on stage is an asset to any show, when that music is provided by the Western Australian Youth Jazz Orchestra, the levels of skill and enthusiasm are hard to surpass. The musicians and conductor are focussed and disciplined throughout, not only performing from the score with confident flair but also providing precise emphasis for the slapstick events.

A natural fit for the diversity of interests that find a home in Fringe performances, Slap and Tickle, with WAYJO, delivers high quality entertainment demonstrating fluency and ability across a range of musical and clowning genres.

Rating: 4 ½ stars

Slap and Tickle
Presented by Summer Nights, The Kabuki Drop and WAYJO
Directed by Mel Cantwell
Script, Lyrics and Original Compositions iOTA
Arrangements and Music Director Mace Francis
Musicians: WAYJO Wednesday Night Orchestra - Tessa Campbell, Claire Keet, Tom Walsh, Tim Newhouse, Jemima Mills, Matthew Smith, James Chapman, Benjamin Lim, Corban Chapple, Steve Bickley, James Van De Ven, Sam Hadlow, Alistair Barrow, Oliver Vonlanthen, Tim Voutas, Kane Shaw, Ryan Daunt
Performed by iOTA and Russell Leonard
Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA, Perth Cultural Centre
27 January – 3 February 2018
Part of Fringe World 2018

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Nerida Dickinson is a writer with an interest in the arts. Previously based in Melbourne and Manchester, she is observing the growth of Perth's arts sector with interest.