For anyone who thinks they don't make physical comedians like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton any more, here's a word from the wise—which, in this context, essentially means anyone who has just come out of Kaput. Simply put, they do; and there is arguably none better, at the moment, than the larger-than-life Australian "acrobatic clown" Tom Flanagan, whose award-winning family show is contributing to a rise of kazoo playing among children!
What makes Kaput so special is Flanagan's easy rapport with audience members of all ages.
There are plenty of self-defined "family shows" in the Fringe nowadays, but Kaput combines simplicity and intelligence in a way that genuinely keeps the kids and accompanying adults laughing, albeit not always for exactly the same reasons. More than once, Flanagan subtly mimes something flying over his head, presumably referring to mildly naughty jokes which adults will see but their kids hopefully won't. That said, I'm assuming the red silk hanky hanging out of Flanagan’s back-pocket (a prop for later on) isn't in any way a reference to the hanky code common in the 1970s' American gay scene!
The show's scenario is simple enough: Flanagan is the projectionist-come-handyman of a small provincial cinema (presumably back in the "silent" era) who accidentally puts a hole in the screen just before the 1.30pm showing of A Love Story. His attempts to repair the damage only make matters worse, and a succession of incredibly physical mishaps (as he tries to glue up some new paper to cover the gaping holes his "repairs" create) almost lead to the cinema burning down. The echoes of Chaplin and Keaton are clear, but lightly performed—and if you're a child, of course, they’re absolutely new.
What makes Kaput so special is Flanagan's easy rapport with audience members of all ages—and it's not just because he initially offers popcorn as a bribe to keep us happy. When, out of seeming frustration, he brings an audience member up to help re-enact the film, Flanagan reveals a genuine talent for getting the best out of people who minutes earlier never thought they’d take part in a five-star Festival Fringe show.