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Interview: By Recommendation of Fringe Royalty

Rosalie Minnitt on her show Clementine

When you come highly recommended by friends of ET Chewboy Productions, well, you must be doing something interesting. And that is just how we got to hear about Rosalie Minnitt and her show Clementine, which comes to VAULT Festival on 3 & 4 March (info and bookings here).

Even after reading up on Clementine, we confess we are still a little confused (in a good way, fringe theatre should all be about the mystery), so it seemed a good idea to grab some time with Rosalie to chat about the show, why we shouldn’t get clogged down with historical accuracy and ponder if the show is a response to a 20 something crisis!

We’ve read your press release and have to admit we’re still not 100% sure what Clementine is all about, care to enlighten us further?

The show follows Lady Clementine on her quest to find love. She suffers from an acute condition known as ‘being single’ and, when her latest beau, Sir Bradley, vanishes, she decides to examine the bottom of her misfortune once and for all. In a plot twist that feels very ahead of its time, she soon realises she’s been looking for love in all the wrong places. As a pre-show warning, it’s probably best to throw everything you’ve ever known about narrative structure, continuity and character arcs out of the window before you settle in. I’ve performed this show almost 20 times now and I’m still not 100% sure what it’s about either.

You say the show is set “roughly in the past”, is that just a cheeky way to be able to avoid worrying about getting historical facts right and throw in some very modern references (such as TikTok we notice)? You know how pedantic us reviewers can be about historical accuracy.

Ironically, I studied History and I’m usually a real stickler when it comes to details, but this show certainly isn’t based in historical fact nor any reality we would recognise. It’s part myth, part memoir and part coming-of-age Netflix original series. (Netflix just doesn’t know it yet.) Given that her dressmaker is a 2 inch noble émigré escaping the French Revolution and her 67 sisters are probably Sylvanian Families, historical accuracy will be the least of any reviewer’s concerns.

 You’ve described Clementine as a comedy cabaret, so is there singing, jokes a-plenty, and maybe some fabulous costume changes?

Yes! I can promise jokes aplenty and original songs. The music was written by the very talented Honor Halford-MacLeod who I really couldn’t have made the show without. Regency dresses are famously difficult to wriggle out of but I’m always thrilled any time I see a costume change, so I am certainly going to be integrating some into my VAULT show. Plus, I think my Justin Bieber shirt needs to make at least one appearance.

Clementine has already toured in 2022, how was that, and what did you learn along the way about the show. Any highlights you can share?

This is the first show I’ve ever written, produced and performed on my own so, unsurprisingly, it’s been a bit of a baptism of fire. I was a bit naive, and it’s been much harder than I ever expected it to be. From marketing to booking venues, performing the show often ended up being the easiest part of the process. I wrote the show initially to get my confidence back after a particularly bumpy lockdown and breakup. When you’re feeling so vulnerable it seems counterintuitive to jump onto a stage and try, desperately, to make a group of strangers laugh. But that’s exactly what I set out to do.

When the show went well, I kept thinking how strange it was that something so undeniably stupid, pointless and joyful could spring from such a bleak chapter of my life. Having a crisis point in your 20s is paradoxically freeing; I felt like I had nothing to lose, and that ever-present fear of what other people might think began to slowly melt away.

Externally, the show changed absolutely nothing about my life. I still live in a damp, leaky, over-priced box room in London. I’m still single and am yet to cobble together anything resembling a career. But it profoundly changed how I feel about myself and what I’m capable of. I love making people laugh and performing absolutely made my year. I went to the Edinburgh Fringe for about 10 days last year, which was tough on my own, but when I finally started to get the right audience in, everything clicked. My last few shows sold out and I just felt so immensely proud of everything that had led me there.

When you come to the Vaults in March, you’re on at 9.45, way past the bedtimes of many of our reviewers. Do you feel there’s a different audience when you have such a late start time?

I’ve actually always wanted to perform the show later on in the evening – it’s definitely one you can enjoy with a drink! In Edinburgh my show was at 12 which felt a bit early on in the day to be screaming about nunneries and horoscopes. There were definitely a few people who wandered into the show looking for a relaxing pre-lunch show and left very different people.

And what’s in your calendar after these March dates? Will we get to see more of Clementine elsewhere?

I think this will probably be the last rendition of this show, but I don’t think I’m ready to retire the character just yet so watch this space!

Thanks to Rosalie for enlightening us a little more about Clementine. The show plays at VAULT Festival 2023 on 3 and 4 March, further information and bookings here.

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