Puppet pioneers Flabbergast Theatre have made an interesting move this year, establishing their own dedicated performance space, The Omnitorium, within the confines of Assembly George Square. Based on the couple of shows I’ve seen there, it’s been a move with mixed success. On the one hand, the ramshackle, intimate venue plays well to Flabbergast’s style, letting audiences get up close, in order to truly appreciate the deft physical theatre which is their stock in trade. On the other, the pressure of programming an entire space seems to have left the company a little overstretched, and the resulting work a little thin on content.
As a technical showcase of clowning techniques, Tatterdemalion is a quality piece of work.
Tatterdemalion is a perfect example of this situation. Performed solely by Flabbergast’s artistic director Henry Maynard, the show centres around a nameless protagonist attempting to fill time while the ‘true’ star of the show, the unseen Professor Walrus, recovers from a bout of heavy drinking. To this end, he uses the contents of the giant trunk onstage to improvise a series of short scenes to keep the audience amused.
To start with a positive, Maynard is a superb performer; an engaging stage presence with an expressive face and weird physicality that’s extremely watchable. Whether taking part in a fake wedding ceremony or miming his journey to work on the Tube, he’s excellent at drawing the audience (often literally) into whatever world he happens to be inhabiting at a particular moment.
Where the show falls down is the links between these moments. Each little vignette is impressive in its own right, but as an hour-long show there’s no overlying structure. This means that some sections feel incongruous, overlong and a little dull, because they’re not serving to move the action forward in any way.
As a technical showcase of clowning techniques, Tatterdemalion is a quality piece of work, but as a self-contained show, it lacks the central story and plot development needed to be truly engaging and compelling. As a chance to see (and probably be a part of) an accomplished production, the ticket is worth every penny, but if you’re wanting to really be transported, then you may want to look elsewhere.