Apart from the eye-catching poster, I knew nothing about the show iOTA: Slap and Tickle, except that I couldn't miss it. But, just like it has paid off in the past, I walked into a show with zero knowledge of what it was about and walked out thoroughly satisfied, content with the masterpiece of this show that was epitomized the 'glitz and grit' theme that Adelaide Cabaret Festival is all about.
A clown and a gimp walk on stage and what unfolds before us is a unique variety show that encapsulates vaudevillian themes through clowning, dance, singing, slapstick comedy, and physical routines - all of which are intertwined into a clever storyline that will tug at your heartstrings. iOTA: Slap and Tickle is a lovable duo, who embody a generous and diverse serve of sass, substance, and oh so much skill in the entertainment scene. While the underlying theme of the show was to represent a tumultuous relationship between the clown and the gimp, we are provided a glimpse of what it's like to be part of a team, where one is drunk on the power of being in the spotlight, while the other yearns to be treated and seen on the same level.
The show begins with Slap singing "I may be gay, but I'm not that cabaret", as he parades from one end of the stage to the other, backed by an impressive 11-piece orchestra jazz band-WA Youth Jazz Orchestra (WAYJO) - that provides the perfect tunes to accompany and accommodate the fast-paced electrifying ambience of the show. Tickle is (barely) dressed in a leather get-up that represents his submissive character, who entertains the audience with his playful and delightful dance sequence and surprises the audience with his colourful skillset of doing the splits, the twerks, and the spins, and the cartwheels in an elegant and effortless manner...that is, until Slap throws him off (literally and figuratively speaking) and pushes him to the side at any given moment to reclaim his place in the limelight.
Travelling through different spokes of a character wheel, we are delighted with a series of flawless personas (all performed by Slap), such as "Sirena" - the Mistress of the Sea, whose persona of a zombie of the ocean resonates with her vocal range that has no limits, "Wayno Braino" - a super likeable bogan who is also an avid mindreader (by far, my favourite character!), "Eva The Diva" - whose luscious hair and cozy shawl do not diminish her aspirations to be a world class diva extraordinaire, "The Wolfman" - who will ignite a sense of mystery, as he takes you on a journey that will give you goosebumps, "The Sad Frog" - who will offer you with a deeper, more soulful performance by the 'pond', and "Sammy The Snake" - whose enigmatic hisses will entrance you like a true charmer that he is.
While the transitions occur in realtime on stage; through their costume changes, a mix of props, and taking turns with new characters, Slap and Tickle are able to demonstrate how their relationship goes from point A to point B ... all the way to point Z and beyond. It tackles the complex juxtaposition of working together in the entertainment industry in a lighthearted manner, whilst subtly hinting at the seriousness of the mental toll it may take on the performers' wellness and stability. It addresses the issue of fighting to be seen, heard, and commended for their individual efforts and talents.
What iOTA (Slap) delivers in his versatile range of octaves of singing, acting, and dance performances across a multitude of characters is beautifully complemented by the playful yet soulful performances that Russell Leonard (Tickle) momentarily blesses us with, through snippets that sneak their way in between (and during) acts. Tickle lingers in the backgrounds and injects his likeable personality, whilst also taking us on a journey to go from being a 'faceless sidekick' to one who eventually finds his identity sans the leather. As the ripples of Slap and Tickle's relationship gains momentum, it becomes apparent that the duo are like Ying and Yang - it is a painfully poignant yet heartwarming moment that will leave us feeling bittersweet for our favourite duo.
iOTA: Slap and Tickle is a solid cabaret show that will give you an hour of cheeky and naughty vibes, an abundance of confetti, a superstar jazz orchestra, and a fast-paced carousel of emotions that are seamlessly imbibed by each audience member's heart and soul for all the right reasons.