Kaput makes for must-see mayhem at the Vancouver International Children's Festival

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A Vancouver International Children's Festival presentation. At the Waterfront Theatre on Monday, May 27. Continues from Thursday to Sunday (May 29 to June 1)

Take a crack Aussie acrobat with clowning skills, give him a small truckload of found objects, set him loose on the Waterfront stage, and what do you get? Pure chaos--the kind that will send the younger set into fits of laughter that may make their parents wish they hadn't outgrown their Huggies.

In Kaput, at the Vancouver International Children's Festival, one-man performer Tom Flanagan pays homage to silent-movie slapstick while pretending to be an old-school projectionist whose equipment keeps breaking.

When he isn't tangling himself precariously in a ladder, he's ripping through the movie screen, setting his projector on fire, and mummifying himself in tape. This guy doesn't have to force a few audience members to assist on-stage; they genuinely want to help him.

What makes Kaput work is not just Flanagan's spot-on mix of charm, lovability, and self-effacing humour, but the fact he can turn on his crowd in an instant. He builds a casual rapport with the audience quite unlike anything you've ever seen before. And he does it without uttering a word. This miming adds another entire layer to the comedy, as he tries to get audience members to do things through increasingly insane gesticulations.

And is it the Aussie in him that allows him to get away with some truly adult jokes that will go right over their kids' heads?

Who knows, but his mix of unpolished mayhem, physical theatre, and improvisation hits exactly the right note for both kids and kids at heart, making this one of the must-see productions at this year's fest.

Pity the poor fool who has to clean up the stage at the end of the show. As anyone who's ever seen a six-year-old's bedroom knows, though, if there's anything that children love, it's a good old-fashioned mess.

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