Writer and Director: Mark Mander
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
With so many cabaret shows on offer you think you’ve seen it all, and most of them are just a variation on a theme, a selection of show tunes and popular numbers arranged around a particular story possibly with some comedy sketches in between. But into a crowded marketplace comes a brand-new star, a pint-sized uber blonde with a unique selling point, she’s a doll. Guaranteed, you haven’t seen anything like The Clementine Show.
This bizarre and often hilarious 70-minute piece is a showcase for Clementine’s singing (miming) talents while revealing the mysterious story of her life. With the body of a Barbie doll and the beautified face of Mark Mander, she opens the night with a rendition of Broadway Baby before introducing her glamorous assistants her dresser Bobby (Mark Esaias) and usherette Yvette, a puppet operated by Ruth Calkin.
The show’s structure places the musical numbers around pre-recorded video chapters revealing Clementine’s autobiography and past performances in music video-like animations created by David Carpenter while other filming is provided by Joe Greco, Sheila Clark and Ed Hartwell. An early sequence to Hello Dolly is particularly fun and nicely location-specific, having filmed in the Crazy Coqs theatre and surrounding corridors of the Zedel Brasserie – a charming, almost personalised touch – in which Clementine is superimposed over some deliberately naff Busby Berkeley moves performed by Esaias and Calkin.
Another great sequence shows Clementine at Barbie’s 4thof July party at her new dream house, surrounded by a crowd of fellow dolls. Clementine’s jealousy is palpable, not least when she reveals her own romantic obsession and unrequited passion for Ken, a diva breakdown leading rather smartly from the video clip into Clementine’s version of Stephen Sondheim’s Losing My Mind.
Temporarily borrowing the voices of some of America’s greatest female singers, and adopting an elaborate new outfit for each tune, Mander’s Clementine brings her unique interpretive approach to Cole Porter’s I Get a Kick Out of You, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Lonely Goatherd from The Sound of Music in which the star resents the presence of puppet sheep, and a grand finale of God Bless America to celebrate American independence but really to facilitate a Punch and Judy face-off between a Donald Trump and Mickey Mouse puppet.
But Clementine doesn’t get it all her own way, and one of the show’s best moments is Bobby’s mini puppet rendition of Copacabana which Esaias acts-out on his usherette tray. If you’ve never really listened to the lyrics, the tragedy of this familiar song is brought vividly, and somewhat emotionally, to life. The sequences for puppets Betty Bar Fly and Yvette work less well, but are a necessary distraction for Clementine’s frequent changes of clothes and hair.
With a total budget of £2.75, it’s all deliberately care-worn and tongue-in-cheek, with plenty of naughty humour and bizarre scenarios. But The Clementine Show is designed to entertain, which it does in spades, largely maintaining its cheeky enthusiasm from start to finish. Most importantly, you start to believe in Clementine, and turns out, she’s a real doll!
Runs until 17 July 2018 | Image: Contributed