The Clementine Show – 4 Stars


The Clementine Show

Live at Zedel

Reviewed – 4th July 2018


“This pairing of puppetry and person totally elevates the complexity and the entertainment value of the show”


Mark Mander’s brainchild is a kitsch-clever-crass and super inventive cabaret fest; a true feast for the senses with all ingredients well-measured. Cabaret is a genre to which I seldom treat myself, and this show has set the bar sky-high.

The concept is simultaneously deeply trite and wonderfully novel: Clementine is a living doll with a tortured tinseltown backstory, who lip syncs to drawling musical numbers in various feathery garbs. Her doll-size body is puppeteered by Mander – who also plays her face, which he uses so nimbly and wittily to hilarious effect. This pairing of puppetry and person totally elevates the complexity and the entertainment value of the show, as it is so pleasing to watch Mander play expertly with his crazy creation.

Mark Esaias as Bobby Pin, Clementine’s dresser, and Ruth Calkin, whose main character is the endearing and secretly saucy puppet, Yvette the Usherette, are exceptionally skilled performers with wonderfully balanced stage chemistry. They kick off the production, swinging through Zedel’s double doors and diving straight in with some audience interaction, audience person-to-puppet. Calkin is no ventriloquist, but part of the beauty of the show is its confident tongue-in-cheek self-awareness, which adds a further layer of arch humour. Esaias and Calkin perform two numbers with other raucous, bespangled characters. These need to perhaps be paced a little more effectively, as they slowed the pace at points. But ultimately, The Clementine Show exploited the beauty of the variousness of cabaret, under the broad umbrella of delectable and original high jinks.

When she is not performing live, Clementine is hidden behind a screen. Each time it is lifted for a new song, a different bejewelled outfit is revealed (I’m sure doll-size tailoring came in handy for the budget!). Each time the screen was lowered, the audience was treated to projected films, which were exceptionally constructed and utterly hilarious. David Carpenter’s animation was coy and beautifully drawn, and the creative ingenuity of filmmakers Joe Greco, Sheila Clark and Ed Hartwell must be commended, for its slickness and silliness. The Clementine Show seamlessly made its practical logistics a part of its carefully woven fabric. It never rested on its laurels, and was so bold even as to move the audience. Esaias and Calkin’s delicate and elegant puppet rendition of Barry Manilow’s Lola, and Mander’s version of Sondheim’s Losing My Mind, explored the whole rainbow of emotion. Laughter mixed with tears is, after all, the mark of a night well spent.

The show’s fourth of July finale was every bit as glorious and trashy as I’d hoped, and the atmosphere in the bar was glowing. Detailed, classy and with more than a dash of the ridiculous, The Clementine Show makes for a feather-tickled pink night on the razz.


Reviewed by Eloïse Poulton


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The Clementine Show

Live at Zedel


Previously reviewed at this venue
Liza Pulman Sings Streisand | ★★★★ | March 2018


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