Andrew Clover: Storyman
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2004
Clover (star of Grass, Cardiac Arrest, Radio 4's Storyman) is Maurice Clark, who creates stories using audience's suggestions. Perrier Nominee (Best Newcomer)
For this, his fifth Edinburgh show, Andrew Clover has gone back to his roots, reviving the character of Maurice Clarke that won him a well-deserved Perrier best newcomer nomination in 2000.
Clarke himself is the reincarnation of Jonathan Swift, or so he believes. To everyone else, he's a delusional ex-mental patient in slippers and raincoat who still hears voices in his head. He's a man on the edge of a nervous breakdown but on the wrong side.
The character approach suits Clover's effusive, exaggerated style much better than stand-up, which tends to demand more honesty and naturalism than he can muster and which has often caused him to come a cropper on this very Pleasance Cavern stage before.
But with a comic creation, audiences are much more accepting of the larger-than-life behaviour Clover exhibits as Clarke. More than that, in fact: they love it. Many of the early laughs come from the paying audience themselves, as they fire back comments to match the bizarre questions coming from the stage.
In this situation, he's essentially a conductor, batting down the unhelpful comments while encouraging the best, and it's a role he performs with relish, as becoming genuinely enthused by the interaction.
"This is like a juggernaut being driven by a toddler," he exclaims, perfectly capturing the sort of innocent, playful fun he achieves so naturally. As the banter comes quick and fast, the premise is unveiled an improvised story with the audience providing various details, both vital and insignificant.
The tale is always about a lonely, misunderstood genius living with a domineering mother who just doesn't understand him, exactly the same situation the fantasist Clarke sees himself in. Tonight our protagonist has a giant nose, which conceals a key, while his mother is bald-headed, but with an unnatural profusion of hair on the rest of her body all thanks to audience prompts.
The tale itself is a bit weird, and not always in a good way, with the almost limitless surrealism giving him the chance to morph the story to fit the suggestions without having to worry too much about it making any sort of sense. Even so, it seems less improvised than billed, with the variables providing colour to the tale, rather than being key to the unfolding scenes.
Clover sells it well, though, and his spirit and energy carry the story over the huge fissures in its structure. It's not quite enough to make us suspend disbelief, but it's close and we've all picked up a little of his infectious zest along the way.