From the puppetry genii who brought the fringe circuit hit Boris and Sergey to stages across the country, Tatterdemalion is a gloriously silly hour of physical comedy and beautiful imagery from the wildly talented Henry Maynard. In this one-man show, the vivacious mix of clowning, puppetry, mime and audience participation makes for one of the most enjoyable hours of fringe theatre I can recall.
From the moment Maynard takes to the stage, teddy in hand and nightcap unassumingly donned, he is mesmerising. His acute physicality throughout this solo performance causes the entire audience to become spellbound, following his silent clowning every step of the way. Without ever saying a word, he creates a character of the loveable fool who may know more than he lets on to, with moments of ironic acknowledgement shining through the production.
A large part of the show is made up of well-conceived and gloriously satisfying audience participation. And we’re not talking just an occasional word or two. One of our audience members was taken on stage to put on Maynard’s shoes for him – a hilarious five minutes of physical clowning – and found a ring, proposed, married each other (by another audience member, of course) and had a baby together. All mimed in whimsical super-speed much to the delight of the entranced audience. It is a brave move to put so much of a show into the hands of audience participants, but if anything this show proves that when it goes right, it is really wonderful.
The true highlights of the show are the set pieces which segment the more comedic audience interactions and showcase the talents which sets Flabbergast aside from so many other theatre companies. The first, in which the performer’s head is swallowed by his shirt which then takes on a life of its own, begins as what would be a throwaway comic bit in the hands of some. However here this sequence becomes a sepia-tinted scene of rejection performed with spellbinding precision which managed to be moving without need of words or facial presence. Another highlight, coming out of a large chunk of the audience on stage miming being on a packed tube, sees Maynard don a cyber suit (entirely mimed, of course) and struggle to investigate an item of unattended luggage. Out of this comes a haunting skeletal puppet, providing a delicate and eerie counterpoint to the clowning of the previous sections.
With endless ideas and unrestricted creativity firing on every cylinder, Maynard and his company have created a beautiful theatrical creature in Tatterdemalion which will prove itself an essential experience for theatregoers everywhere.
Tatterdemalion played at the Camden People’s Theatre. For more information, see the Camden People’s Theatre website.