Fringe Review: "Slap and Tickle" captivates with breathtaking performances and great music
When I first saw the poster for Slap and Tickle I thought what any normal person would think, “this looks like a lot of f*cking fun”. What I didn’t expect to see, however, was an hour-long production that’s underlying plot was about the abusive relationship between a clown and a gimp.
As the show starts and the lights fade, we’re introduced to the characters. Slap, a playful, attention-loving clown. And Tickle, the exuberant yet submissive gimp. Immediately we come to terms with their relationship. As Slap parades around, singing the opening tune:
“I may be gay, but I’m not THAT cabaret” dancing and making a big deal of himself. Tickle is invited over to join in. Yet just as we were getting used to the sight of a Gimp twerking and doing the splits, he’s pushed off to the side by Slap, who eagerly reclaims the spotlight.
Throughout the show this is the one consistent theme. Any time that Tickle has the opportunity to express himself, and join in as an entertainer, Slap pushes him to the side.
While the theme of the show sounds rather dark and depressive, the way it’s presented is anything but. Slap and Tickle is a comedy through and through, with absolutely breathtaking performances by iOTA (Slap) and Russell Leonard (Tickle).
The cast's talent is showcased throughout every aspect of their performance. As iOTA dons new costumes, taking on the personas of different movie and stage stereotypes. He’s almost unrecognisable. Whether it be through flaunting his mind-blowing vocal range as Sirena of the Sea, blasting out notes so high I wouldn’t have thought them possible. Or as Wolfman. Where his focus wasn’t so much on the voice. But creating an intense feeling of suspense and anxiety. Leaving the audience unsure on whether this beast was going to lash out at us. Simply put, every time iOTA was on stage, it was impossible to take your eyes off of him.
That being said, Russell Leonard (Tickle) was no stranger to captivating the audience either. And a testament to the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”, he wears nothing but tight leather briefs, leather straps around his torso, and the classic Gimp mask. You wouldn’t have expected him to start throwing himself around the stage. Yet, whether it be from Slap literally throwing him off to the side, or from him jumping into the splits and cartwheels, that’s exactly what we saw. While Slap was impressive because of his voice and dominance over the stage. Tickle was equally impressive with his light-hearted-humour, and intense physicality. And to top it all off, Leonard performed what is easily one of the most beautiful dance pieces I’ve ever seen. While being as vague as I can to avoid spoiling the play's conclusion. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve never seen a more beautiful and emotive dance scene than Tickle’s at the end of this play.
While iOTA and Leonard are two of the biggest forces during the performance. Slap and Tickle would be nowhere near as amazing if not for WAYJO. Assisting Slap and Tickle in their antics, the Western Australian Youth Jazz Orchestra provides a soundtrack that excites, saddens, and relieves the audience. I’ve seen my fair share of WAYJO performances and saying this is no easy task, but this is the best I’ve ever heard them.
As Slap takes on different personas, so does WAYJO. Changing their style and genre to match what’s happening on stage. During the aforementioned Wolfman scene. The orchestra delivers an eerie and suspenseful tune. Something worthy of being in an LA Noire film. Giving iOTA the backing track to deliver his Tom Waits sounding vocals. Then the next second the orchestra explodes with energy and enthusiasm. Playing a tune you could imagine appearing in a Tony Hawk game.
Everything about Slap and Tickle is fun. Despite the overarching plot of an uneven relationship. There wasn’t a moment I can remember where I wasn’t smiling. From Slap’s captivating and diverse vocal range. Tickle’s breathtaking dancing. And WAYJO’s atmospheric and spot-on musical performance.