A Masterclass with Cumley St. Claire was a show I was sad to miss during its Camden Fringe run, because who doesn’t love flowers and a brightly coloured poster? Fortunately I was given another chance thanks to their short run at the Bread and Roses as part of the Clapham Fringe. On arrival at the theatre I was greeted by a stressed out looking production manager, played by the director of the show Grainne Robson. She is clearly on tenterhooks even before the infamous Cumley St Claire has made an appearance, nervously coaching the audience ahead of their arrival.
Written by Cat Addens, who also plays Cumley St. Claire this is a darkly farcical piece about fame, flowers, oppressive family responsibilities and the menace of bees. Adden’s Cumley St. Claire is an hilarious creation, with much more to them than I first expected. Yes, they are difficult to work with, and prone to going off on inappropriate tangents that make the filming of a coherent masterclass all but impossible. However, they’ve also been raised by an overbearing mother, been forced into a colourless marriage, and are clearly carrying a lot of pain. Maybe that is why they felt the need to push Mary Berry into a river.
I laughed a lot throughout, particularly as filming further devolves due to sound issues leading to a full blown argument between Cumley and the Tech Guy (played by Joseph Edwards Rean, you never know when or where a surprise new member of the cast might pop up). There is a manic, chaotic energy to the show that means you can’t fully relax as an audience member, which I enjoyed. It is nice to be kept on my toes, and to never be sure what might happen next. And there is a genuine human story sitting within the craziness and the jokes, so while you may laugh I defy you not to care a little for notorious florist Cumley St. Claire by the end.
Unfortunately I can’t point you to where you can see it next, as I saw the final performance of the Clapham Fringe run today, however hopefully Salt Circle Productions will have future plans for this show, so it may well pop up somewhere else in the not too distant future. It is a must watch for those who like their comedy anarchic, mildly obscene, and brimming with tragedy.