I’d see Butt Kapinski again in a heartbeat. Partly due to this one-woman, choose-your-own-adventure, improvised film-noir from Deanna Fleysher being one of the most side-splitting shows you’ll see at this year’s Fringe. And partly because in the performance I watched, Fleysher was subject to the most offensive heckle I’ve ever seen in a live show, something with which she dealt gamely, bravely and in a way that should inspire any established or aspiring artists out there.
I’ll get the unpleasantness out of the way first. Fleysher entered the stage, dressed in male drag as her alter-ego: Butt Kaplinksi, private eye. The look was completed by a tall Sherlock-esque tailcoat, collar flicked ludicrously high, extreme make-up to extenuate every facial expression and, best of all, an enormous lamp attached to her back and which poked out her coat, which provided the vast majority of the show’s lighting. Fleysher used this to extraordinary effect, flicking the lamp’s gaze from herself to audience members and perfectly capturing the iconic film noir image of a detective huddled beneath a streetlight. She also spoke with a hilarious combination of speech impediments, which including a lisp, a sibilant ‘s’ and rhoticism (when a ‘r’ becomes a ‘w’ sound). It was here that the interjection began.
“the finest fool of the Fringe”
An audience member raised his complaint, by saying, loudly and directly, ‘I can’t understand a fucking word you’re saying’. As audible shockwaves reverberated through the audience, this continued. Over the next fifteen minutes, this man lit his phone, asked for a refund, refused to leave and continued to swear at Fleysher. Most admirably, after a period of brief non-interruption, Fleysher took the bull by the horns. Walking towards him, in character, she suggested that they had reached an impasse, where he clearly didn’t wish to watch the show but wouldn’t leave either. Soon after, Pleasance staff removed him from proceedings, but not before he turned at the door and attempted to take his seat once more. While I hope she never has to endure this again, I can’t commend her highly enough for the way she handled and used the moment to her supreme advantage.
Very often at the Fringe, the best kept secrets are those gems of evening shows which stray towards the edge of insanity and make you feel at home with a group of strangers for an evening. Butt Kapinksi is such a piece. Roping in the audience to perform her soundtrack (we were treated to a quite beautiful crooner), play the corpses, police department, prostitutes (hilariously pronounced a ‘whowaws’) and many more, Fleysher embarked on a meandering, dazzling odyssey of comic invention. The lack of distinctive narrative didn’t matter in the slightest, for this was not only a parody of the film-noir formula but an homage to the various repeated tropes the genre so often displays. Fleysher’s background in immersive, interactive comedy and clowning, both of which she teaches, was self-evident, with her strange, exaggerated movements, constantly arched eyebrows and breathtakingly wide, manic eyes making her an enormously magnetic performer to watch. The show also features a sumptuous ending which skewered performance art and character acting itself, in another bravura display of theatrical bravery and virtuosity.
There are few shows on offer in existence, let alone Edinburgh, which possess this level of comedic originality. Butt Kapinski has its moments of depth too, including an existential monologue on the nature of performance and crime halfway through, something which felt particularly poignant on this occasion. You’d be a fool to miss Fleysher, the finest fool of the Fringe.
Pleasance Dome, 2nd – 27th August, 20:10
Image: Kapinski Enterprises