“Vickers weaves bizarre, bamboozling, absurdly nonsensical stories, which he tells with a mix of puppetry and song “
Who is Twonkey? What is a cadabra? Why is Twonkey’s cadabra blue? All your questions will be answered – sort of – in the course of this weirdly compelling performance, which combines freewheeling inventiveness with some genuinely touching storytelling. Fresh from a much-starred run at the Edinburgh Fringe, this one-off appearance in the depths of Mary King’s Close also included some new material destined for next year’s follow-up show.
Any attempt to describe Paul Vickers’ one-man act is doomed to inadequacy, but here’s a quick list of just a few of the things he covers. An oven talks; a tailor flies; a creepy cat just keeps coming back, and our host explains the best way to sneak up on an unsuspecting microphone. Vickers weaves bizarre, bamboozling, absurdly nonsensical stories, which he tells with a mix of puppetry and song. His parallel worlds have an internal consistency, and enough points of reference to hang onto – but if you’re expecting a close connection with reality, you’ll be set to rights within the first few minutes of his pleasantly perplexing routine.
It simply wouldn’t work if you took it too seriously. But Vickers, who drifts in and out of character as Mr Twonkey, develops a rapid rapport with his audience; the crowd grew noticeably more relaxed with his complex material as the show wore on. There’s a fair amount of comic bungling – it takes real panache to lose your props quite so endearingly, quite so often – and selected punters have their minds probed by psychic underwear, an ice-breaker which actually works remarkably well.
But for all the random wackiness, there’s a real poignancy to some of the storytelling. Vickers’ biography of Stan Laurel might be untroubled by actual facts, but his imagined anecdote touches on big questions of fame, friendship, and the things a celebrity must leave behind. And the most moving story of all was the very last one he told, which used a run-in with a drunken postman as the jumping-off point for a tale of lost love. Suddenly, and very quietly, the whimsical took a devastatingly serious turn.
It might have been a touch more satisfying if the stories linked together – absurdist non-sequiturs can only take you so far – but Vickers’ greatest achievement is to leave you feeling that, in a way you can’t quite express, it all made perfect sense in the end. A show like this is bound to split opinion, and if you want to be led by the hand through an intricately-constructed narrative you really won’t like it at all. But if you relish the occasional outbreak of nonsense, you’ll find Twonkey’s Blue Cadabra a gloriously colourful show.
Reviewer: Richard Stamp (Seen 6 November)
Visit Twonkey’s Blue Cadabra homepage here.