The Medicine Show

Mon 6th – Sat 25th August 2012


Rachel Cunliffe

at 01:26 on 23rd Aug 2012



It is difficult to work out just how to assess ‘The Medicine Show’, a weird and wonderful cabaret act performed by the enigmatic Mr and Mrs Clark (these are the only names provided). The opening is vaguely Rocky Horror-esque, with the duo entering to strobe lighting and rock music, both wearing glasses with flashing lights and costumes that are almost certainly inspired by Tim Burton. Mr Clark does all the talking, and some singing, while Mrs Clark performs a cross between a burlesque dance and a contortionist act in the background. She is clearly extremely talented at both, and is more flexible than any human has the right to be.

What follows is one of the strangest pieces of theatre I have ever seen. Mr and Mrs Clark take it upon themselves to cure their viewers of any ailments they have (hence the title, though this isn’t really that important), with the long-term aim of leading them down the path to eternal happiness. Their insistence on audience participation is rather aggressive – expect to be dragged onstage to endure bizarre rituals, whether you want to or not. These include an attempt to build a tent out of wire and a sheet, as well as a cure for love-sickness which is frankly terrifying. Singing features heavily.

Both actors are indisputably brilliant performers. Mr Clark has terrific stage presence, commanding the atmosphere in this intimate space. Accompanying his dominant monologues with interpretive dance, Mrs Clark’s grace of movement never falters. There is even a kinky acrobatic routine, where both partners show off how well they can move with each other, which is absolutely stunning.

The conclusion, however, is a bit of a letdown, and the show does drag on past the point where the concept ceases to be original. There is a lot of great material here, but not quite enough to fill the whole hour. The ending is odd, but thinking back, there really isn’t anything they could have done which would have been more satisfying. Simply put, this show is weird. It’s original and dynamic and very entertaining, and with a bit of polish, it could be something truly spectacular.


Charlie Brookhouse

at 09:45 on 23rd Aug 2012



'No pain, no gain' may be the premise of The Medicine Show. Mr and Mrs Clark make a terrifyingly funny and frightfully good stab at harmonising mind, body and soul in this highly interactive piece of theatre. Mrs Clark’s giant wide eyes and wild dark hair stand out against a bright white face. She smacks of the Helena Bonham-Carter’s witches, Bellatrix and Mrs Lovett. In her time on stage, she is Mr Clark’s accomplice, assistant, and go to, and commands the dark space like a rippling feline on the prowl. Occasionally her heels stab violently into the floor before she then pivots round to begin another contortionist routine. Mr Clark, if he isn’t himself involved in this, strums out a punchy guitar rhythm that is appropriately chromatic. A single chrome 50s microphone hangs on a wire from the ceiling and amplifies his raspy voice: ‘I got caught in a stoorrrrm, I got caught in a storm.’ Following the song, Mr and Mrs Clark transform the stage into an operating theatre to remedy sexual and mental maladies, with Mrs Clark readily seducing audience members into Mr Clark’s stark psychomachia.

The Medicine Show won’t rid you of your worries for all the rest of your days, but its quirky humour will certainly alleviate any of your immediate anxieties. Mr and Mrs Clark’s rough and ready remedy for marriage difficulties is to take up gymnastics. They demonstrate by performing a clumsy cross between karma sutra and ballet. Of course, you won’t need to fret about marriage difficulties if you make the right decision in the first place and the Clark couple willingly perform a compatibility test on two audience members. The show requires the unsuspecting pair to erect a gazebo, either the kind of thing you’d need for your anniversary’s barbeque or to keep the kids out of danger. In an especially macabre turn of events the man took a computer mouse and wrapped the wire round a baby doll’s neck, fixing the other end to an upright pole. Perhaps with this piece of voodoo it really was the case that the Clarks were fiddling with our auras. Either way, Mr and Mrs Clark’s Medicine Show is more than just palliative.


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