Rosalie Minnitt: Clementine | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Rosalie Minnitt: Clementine

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Painstakingly crafted and brilliantly performed, Rosalie Minnitt's character comedy debut  is so much more than it first appears, with the laughs escalating as its adherence to its main source material disintegrates.

Ostensibly a bonnet drama spoof, the title character is a flighty, excitable young woman in some vague, bygone era, in 'England, probably', on the cusp of her 27th birthday. This is the point by which she has to find a husband or be condemned to live forever as a spinster, shunned by polite society like her disgraced maiden aunt, who's been all but erased from history.

Entitled and self-centred, Clementine is forever swooning in melodramatic collapse, huffily protesting her circumstances or explosively denouncing the commoners and hired help in the time-honoured tradition of the English aristocracy.

The conceit is that she's a woman out of time, a Gen Z brat suffocated by the restrictive, over-the-top confines of her Regency-style surroundings. She is doomed to manifest to the universe and spout frustrated psychobabble in a world where young women are only to be married off and where progressive politics are transgressive, dirty words and where her would-be suitors are a parade of nepo babies, incels and other toxic masculine traits. An instrumental version of Britney Spears' hit soundtracks the romantic ball where she encounters them.

With an incoherent, mish-mashed collage of images and clips playing behind her, the setting is a ridiculously broad, irreverent parody of Austen, Bronte et al, inspired more by the television adaptations and cosy, Great Britain plc iconography of shows like Bridgerton and even Downton Abbey as much as the original novels.

As a UK-based Belgian, Minnitt is obviously having great fun sending up this sanitised, harmless view of British upper-class life that we sell to the world and back to ourselves. The fact that Jackie, Clementine's hunched, long-suffering maid, seems to belong to Dickens rather than Middlemarch exemplifies the cartoonish sense of superficiality and anachronism.

All the while, Clementine herself is an utterly modern, egotistical womanchild, having internalised the sexism around her. Footage of The Suffragettes is spliced in with meaningless slapstick, echoing her complete disregard for feminism.

Happily however, Minnitt has more ambition than mere parody. The show has a satisfying three-act structure that hinges on Clementine having more agency than she's initially willing to divulge, unsurprising given the dark nature of a secret she harbours.

The psychopathic energy that the character once applied to finding a husband is suddenly re-focused as she begins a saga of flight, capture and escape, with real Sturm-und-Drang intensity and a Kate Bush soundtrack.

Delirious, demented stuff, Minnitt brings a powerhouse display of wild-eyed madness when required but sells her best lines throughout with stroppy expressiveness or perfectly timed, casual indifference. There's both nuance and daftness in aspects like her incrementally growing number of sisters. And the inconsistencies in the character only serve to make it seem more rounded somehow, ready-made and robust enough for a broadcast adaptation, I'd suggest.

Featuring limited but engaging audience participation and some songs – with the central standout number, Guide Me Stars, a pisstake of astrology so lovely that you'd swear it hailed from a West End stage – Clementine is a veritable chocolate box of varied delights.

Review date: 13 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson
Reviewed at: Underbelly Cowgate

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