By Colin Flaherty
There was a time when whimsical comedy was a dirty word and its association with the hipster movement added to the sneering. In The Merchant of Whimsy, Clara Cupcakes led a sugar fuelled Whimsy Anon type meeting and took us through the 5 steps of coming to terms with your inner manic pixie dreamgirl.
If the advertising for this show hadn’t already made it clear, this show was whimsy overload. From her kooky outfits to the vaudevillian music and atmosphere to the hand crafted animated interludes everything was extremely cutesy and twee. It was fascinating to see how she manage to insert plenty of current cultural references into the script, both in the juxtaposition to the old fashion atmosphere and how she gave them the whimsical treatment.
If the thought of an hour of wall to wall whimsy sends you rushing for the insulin, be assured that this show both celebrated and ridiculed whimsy in equal measures so there was plenty to tickle all fancies. It also ventured into some dark places to show that things were not all unicorns and ukeleles in this world, providing welcome light and shade and ensuring unpredictability.
Cupcakes entertained using her circus skills. Her stunts often seemed random and silly but were perfectly integrated into the narrative. There was a fair bit of old school clowning, pratfalls galore, mime, a silly song or two, and some impressive hula hoop action. It was pleasing to see that humour played a pivotal role in this show, not just relegated to amusing patter between party pieces. This character was larger than life and her ineptness in keeping things together provided many laughs.
Storming through the room like a bossy child, Cupcakes constantly got audience members involved in the show. Even though she employed a lot of bullying and a little bit of personal space violation, the actual tasks assigned were largely enjoyable for all involved. Audience humiliation was kept to a minimum with Cupcakes ensuring that she remained the butt of all jokes. Often punters were left holding or wearing props when their help ended, leaving them unsure if they were to be called on again.
Music played a large role in this show and when they failed to hit their cues, the amusing chaos kept all smiling. Short videos featuring Cupcakes as a paper doll were used to introduce the next section and keep us engaged while she changed costumes. These almost spelt out what would happen in the next part, both what Cupcakes would emerge wearing and what props would be used but there were many twists and turns to keep some surprises up her sleeve.
This was a very silly show with plenty of heart and a message to take away. If you don’t mind if things getting a little touchy feely, embrace your kooky side and get swept away by the hilarious Clara Cupcakes.
The Merchant of Whimsy is on at the Lithuanian Club until October 3rd
For booking details visit https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/program/event/view/57a9dba4-cc54-47ce-82fb-e3bc01d0cc77