Pure Imagination: Tatterdemalion

4 ½ stars

Most shows start after you’ve found your seat, but this one is an exception. We are wildly entertained from the outset, finding ourselves ushered into the Casa Mondo venue by a frantically excited ticket collector.

Henry Maynard, our host, is thrust ‘unexpectedly’ into the starring role and is clearly far more skilful than his character lets on. As he plays the part of the buffoon, we are drawn into a show that’s richly filled with the very best of wordless - yet far from silent - clowning.

Tatterdemalion is imbued with a glorious Victorian-era aesthetic. The curiosities that emerge from the trunk sitting centre stage live up to their promise to astound and amaze, if only because of the hand that wields them.

The outside world fades away as we take in the mysterious scene that Maynard builds before us. The lighting perfectly supplements the performance, too, with a single stark drop light transforming the set props in one of the show’s many memorable moments.

We’re enthralled in a series of unexpected tangents that play out seemingly - but clearly not - at random as our ticket collector works with what he can find. Even the act of pulling on a shirt prompts a change of setting that, drawing on audience participation, perpetuates absurdly hilarious events.

The highlight really is Maynard’s ability to get an audience member playing along. His enthusiasm is contagious, with almost the entire crowd getting to be a part of the performance.

This show is gloriously dark at times, and is self-referential in a way that lends surprising solidity to the narrative as it’s thrown together. Circling in on itself, leading up to a glorious finale, the story revives our imagination and reminds us how it feels to be immersed in the surreal.

Tatterdemalion is a joyous demonstration of physical comedy, from clowning to object puppetry and mime, that depends heavily on Maynard’s skills at manipulating an audience. Thankfully, he is a master of his craft and we, as both observers and participants, are all the richer for it.

Tickets available from the FRINGE WORLD website.