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Published on Thursday, 25 August 2011

5 stars (Critic's Choice)

Just The Tonic at the Caves (venue website)
4-16, 18-28 Aug, 6:15pm-7:15pm
Reviewed by Kirsty Leckie-Palmer

 Parental Guidance. Parents or guardians should consider the content of this show if children are attending.

An unfortunate series of events sparked by a truant wallet, a missed train and a clash with a confrontational hen party brought me to the Caves under a thundercloud of wretchedness. Even in mind of the gallant detachment expected of a reviewer, I was sodden with the kind of manic gloom which is as easy to remedy as dismemberment. After approximately three minutes’ exposure to the deranged inventions of WitTank, I was cured.

Performing in a vaulted chamber of The Caves, WitTank is a series of slick-fire sketches wrought by persistent Fringe fireballs Kieran Boyd, Mark Cooper Jones and Naz Osmanoglu. Leading the audience through a pick ‘n' mix of eccentrics ranging from a despotic headmaster to a singing horse – all with the assistance of deft lighting, quick changes and quirky props – it’s wild enough to feel different, and well-written enough to retain credibility.

All three performers morphed into characters with the ease of schizophrenic chameleons on a Red Bull binge. What made this more impressive was the writing behind each vignette, which always allowed a twist or well-timed diversion. The surrealism amped up toward the shows' conclusion, and can flick from the frivolity of a witless scuba instructor, to a debauched episode involving a libidinous hybrid of Frank from Donnie Darko and a Duracell bunny from the netherworld.

There’s no overall plot as such, although the delicious disconnectedness of the sketch selection is playfully looped at some points, with familiar characters returning to the stage. It’s testament enough to the act’s impact that laughs of recognition ripple through a crowd to whom they were so recently unacquainted. Costumes and props are brilliantly low-budget. Objects as everyday as a rubber glove and a feather fan transport us to a nature documentary, with little more than the sheer infectiousness of pure, distilled fun.

WitTank is a show of imagination, timing and surrealism, which doesn’t so much suspend as dislocate disbelief from its audience members. Flipping from devious to daft with the drape of a cloak, it’s a menagerie of pleasant surprises and audacious silliness. If you don’t feel enchanted – or at the very least amused – on your way out, abandon the hope you ever will.

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