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Clementine’s Seasonal Spectacular at Rosemary Branch Theatre

Clementine the Living Fashion Doll in Clementine's Seasonal Spectacular at Rosemary Branch Theatre Photo Justin David
Clementine the Living Fashion Doll in Clementine’s Seasonal Spectacular at Rosemary Branch Theatre

I must admit it took a little while for me to get fully into the swing of things at Clementine’s Seasonal Spectacular. Some of the show’s ingredients come across, at face value, as though it may culminate in a recipe for disaster – multiple animations and projections, recorded music, some recorded words and lyrics, and lip-synching to the said recordings.

But to draw a conclusion on that basis alone is about as narrow-minded as admonishing theatre cast and creatives never to work with children and/or animals. What this production proves is that it is entirely possible to devise a show with significant CGI (‘computer generated imagery’, for the uninitiated or those who just need a reminder) and not lose any of the warmth and audience rapport established by a strong script and talented actors.

There’s a lot of things right with it: the sound, the lighting, the viewing angles, the costumes, the puppetry – ‘spectacular’ is an apt description. There’s a certain, very British, very slapstick, style of humour in Mark Mander’s writing – if you can’t stand the Carry On films you might want to give this one a miss. I mention that film series because some of the punchlines do seem to herald from a previous generation. While it worked well for the ‘adults only’ performance I attended, if the references and allusions to the Eighties are included in the ‘suitable for all’ shows, it may go over younger people’s heads.

There isn’t all that much, I hasten to add, that’s unsuitable for family viewing, aside from one particular sequence which can be quite easily taken out without consequence to the rest of the show. But then, perhaps I’ve misunderstood what is exactly meant by ‘adults only’, and the good people of the Rosemary Branch can hardly be to blame for my line of thinking.

It’s bizarre and surreal in places, but it’s an enjoyable experience, and it works! Half variety performance, half panto, we are treated to a very wide range of characters, some more plausible than others. Naturally, I am more than a little uncomfortable with quite so much pre-recorded material being used in live performance, but – credit where credit is due – the show constantly transitions between video segments and stage action (and back again, and so on) very smoothly. The attention to detail from start to finish is quite phenomenal, with some highly credible choreography – or whatever the right term is for puppetry movement. And yes, the fourth wall comes down…

Copyright issues have been thought through, with hilarious results in the panto section of the evening’s proceedings – though, interestingly, the Act One finale includes a very popular song by a very popular entertainer. I could go on pointing out contradictions, but this would be rather missing the point. This production is eccentric and wacky, and it knows it, and invites us on the sort of journey that may not make altogether coherent sense, but there’s fun aplenty to be had along the way nonetheless.

This is not a typically tacky puppet show. It’s more than that. With a panto whose ‘Snow White’ narrative becomes most unconventional, and a not-very-well-disguised political agenda going on, this is certainly memorable theatre. Ludicrous, ridiculous, charming and delightful in equal measure, it’s worth a look.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Clementine’s Seasonal Spectacular
8th December 2015 – 10th January 2016
A brand new multimedia show for Christmas suitable for all the family starring the diminutive diamante decked diva, Clementine The Living Fashion Doll, original creation of puppeteer Mark Mander.

In the first half Clementine introduces us to some of her fabulous guests including Ricky Rooster, Betty Barfly and that well known vintage magic act from the 1970s Hans Knees and Boomsadaisy. After the interval you will be treated to Clementine’s unique panto version of Snow White with Spitting Image’s Steve Nallon voicing several of the characters.

Matinee and regular evening shows for boys and girls of all ages will feature plenty of adorable creatures and a sleigh load of jolly good fun. But if you are up for some extra spice book for an Adults Only night when musical theatre star and fitness model Jack Jefferson will make a personal appearance – worth the price of the ticket alone!


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