CLARA CUPCAKES: THE WORST is a wonderful production. When we first meet our player/character, we do wonder though, will the wonder she sees around her keep us engaged for the length of our time together. Wonder on, till truth make all things plain. Yep, this is a Shakespearean clown snuggled away in a tiny theatre at the tail end of the Bondi Feast.
Clara Cupcakes invented a game in 2001. The year of Enron and the ipod. A bad game. THE WORST. This Dire Straits-ish, blocky, animated quest was essentially unplayable. Until now.
On the small stage is an octopus. She is purple and she is excitable. She is the inheritor of Puck and Bottom and a bit of Dogberry with the distinct whiff of Gypsy Rose Lee and Ethel Merman. Not to mention Siri beatboxing… just ask her … “I could do this all day!” And she is our hero. She will play the game and interact with the graphics in an attempt to re-enter the undersea castle from which she has been rudely ejected like the last cartridge of a Nintendo 64.
She arises, Venus-like, from a shell to win the audience with her exuberance, resilience and kick ass doggedness. Her tentacles might drop away in the least sexy burlesque I have ever seen. Her Marilyn wig might be as askew as her painful singing and she might do something with a glove that still makes me feel a tiny bit bilious. But she is lovable, engaging and we are on her side.
So is her little crustacean ‘paper clip’ guide. He will try and help her as she fails time and again to find objects, fight challengers, boss the game and the stage or save her progress. The sea slugs of death are always waiting to jolt her back to the beginning.
Elly Squire, directed by Geraldine Quinn. is manic and maniac in CLARA CUPCAKES: THE WORST and she lets it all hang out. It’s a crazy, frenetic performance that is wide-eyed and wonderful to behold. Just fun and laughs and a bit of empathy and an emotional tug at the love strings of your heart. But, oh, the skill!
It’s not just the superb visualisation of the game or the quality rendering and artistic choices of the visuals. Nor is it the pinpoint audio effects which so beautifully hark back to a time when video game music was one pitch and addictive… who hasn’t fallen asleep with the tinny Tetris theme echoing from another room? Nor is it the clever use of props, the spectacularly stretchable costume or the gentle light colour choices of pinks and pale oranges for emotion rather than ambience. No nasty ocean greens.
It’s a clown’s truth which shines through. An ability to say things that make us laugh at ourselves, the power to create a grotesque that is human and questing. Above all though, it is the experience of a seasoned and deceptively astute performer to nurture audience members into a bit of advanced silliness on stage. Squire is the real deal for humanist, boutique, hilarious cabaret entertainment.
Will our octopus friend, and she is our friend, survive her love stumble? Will we survive the sweaty hug as we leave the theatre? Wonder no more. See CLARA CUPCAKES: THE WORST before it in once again consigned to the video game scrapheap.
The final performance of CLARA CUPCAKES : THE WORST is tonight – Saturday 29th July at 8.15pm in the Little Theatre at the Bondi Pavilion.