I have heard of Butt Kapinski before. A couple of years ago we were both at the Edinburgh Fringe and people would NOT stop talking about this show.
“Ohmigod, have you seen Butt Kapinski?” they would say. “It got 15 stars in The Scotsman and revolutionised the way that I see art, and life. Have you seen it?"
“No,” I would hiss. “We clash.”
So my expectations were high, but I was also slightly suspicious. See, I don’t like improv, and I don’t like audience interaction, and that is essentially what this show is. Deanna Fleyscher, in role as Butt Kapinski, a hard bitten and deeply speech impedimented private investigator, charges around the stage using the audience to make up the rest of the show - set, props, other actors. This sounds like it could be excruciating, and yet, it isn’t. It is utterly hilarious.
Butt Kapinski cuts an astonishing figure. The costume is magnificent - an ill-fitting suit with, somehow, a massive lamp rigged up through the back of it. This lamp is one of the funniest pieces of stage lighting I have ever seen. Most of the time it illuminates Butt in a stark, stylised beam, but it also gets twisted round to point at whatever audience member is taking on a role, with a slow creak.
The audience were pretty game, and actually made me glad I didn’t see it at the Fringe. Very few seemed super keen to join in, which makes the show funnier, I think, and less likely to be derailed. I particularly liked Kapinski’s treatment of the other reviewer in the audience (who had marked himself out by bringing a notebook). Telling him he was writing a poem and asking him to read it out loud to the group was typical of the level of play that Fleyscher has with her audience. He did read out a poem, too, and it wasn’t bad.
The audience interaction, rather than the cringey awkwardness you’d fear, made for a show that felt genuinely collaborative. It seemed like we had made something as a group, and I was left full of good feeling for my fellow audience members. It was exhilarating to be a part of it.
Like all film noirs, the show ended with a big twist. I won’t give it away (the tour isn’t over - if you’re in Bristol, Brighton or London, it’ll be with you soon) but I was genuinely surprised and delighted by the turn of events.
Overall, a delightful and hilarious show. This was one of the most innovative pieces of theatre I’ve seen.