Adelaide Cabaret Festival : iOTA – Slap And Tickle : 4*

Utilising the Variety Show genre but with a back storyline which ties the different acts together, Slap And Tickle is a clever, witty, and very funny show.

We meet Slap the clown (iOTA), Tickle the Gimp (Russell Leonard), and the third element of the show : a multi-piece jazz orchestra who provide sound effects as well as the beautiful music throughout.

Slap is a limelight-hugging, jealous, and somewhat bad-tempered clown who bullies, humiliates, and fails to acknowledge the contributions and talents of Tickle. All the ‘backstage’ activity happens in front of the audience to whom the hard work and dedication of Tickle become obvious. But when Slap’s attention is elsewhere Tickle has his chance to shine.

iOTA brings to life a cast of diverse characters and through these exhibits his great song-writing talents and his theatrical skills. They range across a gamut of styles from Eva Diva the ageing would-be star of the musicals, the Wolfman, and a very tender sequence in a lily pond. The standout for me was his portrayal of Wayno Braino : an angry bogan mind-reader who had the front rows very, very nervous.

Despite being virtually bound and gagged, forced into subservience and near anonymity, Russell Leonard lets us see and feel for the real Tickle who is waiting in the wings. He tempers his impressive size and obvious strength with tenderness and vulnerability. The choreographer of the show, he has the stage to himself as he presents the surprising finale.

As one would expect from a variety-style cabaret show there are moments of silliness, smuttiness and slapstick. It brings to mind the comedy double-acts of the stage , with the ‘star’ and his sidekick. There is also plenty of pathos and depth. The plot could maybe benefit from a bit more work but this is a small consideration. iOTA’s song writing and performances are excellent, the band are outstanding.

This is the premiere of Slap And Tickle. The final performance at this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival is tonight, 7pm Saturday 22 June in the Dunstan Playhouse.


Leave a Reply