Friday 13 March 2020

Gretchen - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

What are you supposed to do when your friends, family and the general population all seem to like your british shorthair cat more than you? Well if you're Clara Cupcakes, you make a show about it. The multi-disciplined, multi-award nominated comedian is taking audiences on an absurdly surreal trip with her new Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, Gretchen.

Considering how much of a fun loving bubble of energy and positivity Clara is, it's surprising to hear that her cat receives more attention than her. So, who exactly is Gretchen? "Gretchen is my horrible, no good, grumpy and adorable cat whom I adore despite her being utterly awful," she admits. "I’m making a show about her because she is infinitely more popular than I am so I’m giving the people what they want. It’s honestly ridiculous. Both my housemate and I get more engagement on photos and videos when we post content of Gretchen than any of our own work. I was in Perth recently and I had a drag queen that I don’t even know rush up to me and ask “WHO IS LOOKING AFTER GRETCHEN?!”."

She may be getting a show made in her honour but the collaboration between the two has not always been professional yet Clara is hopeful the finished product will have been worth enduring the diva-like demands of her feline partner. "Her dramaturgy style is very unconventional in that involves a lot of yelling," she says. "Yelling about being patted. Yelling about being fed. Yelling about being patted. Yelling about being allowed to go outside. Yelling about being fed again. She’s hard on me during rehearsals and her fee is chickum."

"But this is a serious theatre piece about a misunderstood musical genius so I can understand where she's coming from," Clara continues. "It's a lot of pressure for her. She’s got songs to sing and things to say but nobody appreciates her. She’s trapped within the confines of the four walls imposed upon her by the human world. If you’re a cat lover, you’ll appreciate the stupidity of owning a small lion. If you don’t, the show is still silly enough for you to have the dumbest best time ever."

But - dare I say it - enough about Gretchen. Clara is a performer in her own right, having begun her career in the arts with burlesque and gradually moving to comedy and improv, a change which, while unplanned was not completely unexpected.  "It’s just kind of happened. It was never my intention to be a performer," she tells me. "I used to perform heaps when I was younger but stopped in my early 20s. I was 26 or so before I started up again. I threw myself into everything I could. I was extremely lucky when I came to Melbourne to be given an opportunity to try a bunch of stuff out at an amazing place called Burlesque Bar (which closed its doors in 2013) and I owe my career as it stands now to that weird little nook."

It's that sort of connection and inspiration found at Burlesque Bar that encourages Clara to carry on in this crazy industry, even when trying to meet the needs of a highly demanding cat. "It's this feeling of offering someone something through your performance, whether it’s a profound realisation or a small bit of joy in their day. That’s what I love, and those special, fleeting moments are why I keep doing it."


1) When did you realise you were funny?
At six when I did a solo jazz ballet performance to The Phantom of the Opera and spent the entire song just shaking my hips and turning in a circle. The adults were in stitches and I gained POWER.
2) What is your favourite word?
Sassafras - a deciduous North American tree with aromatic leaves and bark. The leaves are infused to make tea or ground into filĂ©/a town in Victoria. It’s a word that tastes delicious in your mouth.
3) If you were arrested with no explanation, what would your friends assume you had done?
A big angry protest of something. Either that or my terrible driving.
4) If animals could talk, which would be the rudest?
Gretchen. She’s the rudest even without human speech.
5) Which character from a TV show most reminds you of yourself?
Louise Belcher from Bob’s Burgers. Or
beauty content creator Patrick Starr.


Venue: Crowded at The Croft, 21 Croft Aly, Melbourne
6 - 18 April, 9:45pm
50 minutes
$20 Full | $17 Conc | $15 Tightarse Tuesday and Preview
Bookings: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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