Singular actor and writer of Clairvoyant, Bettine Mackenzie is funny. Entering the empty studio space in an impossibly unattractive grey tracksuit ensemble, she begins to address what we assume to be an imaginary panel of talent show judges. She wants to be a popstar, she tells us. All it takes is faith in yourself, she says, in a tiny voice, swallowing every other word. She does not have what it takes.

Each character is as well-formed as the next

The writing is a perfect send-up of that tired X-Factor jargon: ‘This has been my life-long dream, I’m going to give it 110%, etc etc etc.’ She tells us she’ll be performing a Madonna song. She does, with no backing track - and no concept of the actual tune. It’s awful, and it’s perfectly on point.

Only a few lines into the song, things start to turn. The girl is possessed by a spirit - it appears that summoning the dead is this character’s real talent. What follows are a series of quick, clever character sketches, as a host of the dead turn up one by one to ruin the aspiring popstar’s audition attempts. We meet a church community leader who’s dealing with a biscuit theft; a rich elderly woman planning to leave his fortune to his macaw, Terence; an Eastern-European woman faced with a moral dilemma between her citizenship papers and her predatory tutor, and finally a teenager trying to convince their disinterested mother that they’re the next Derren Brown.

Each character is as well-formed as the next - especially impressive is the structure of the monologues, which manage to convey the situation despite offering only singular sides of a conversation. Mackenzie’s showcase of accents, postures, gesticulations come at us, one after the other.

This is precisely what makes Clairvoyant an unsatisfactory show. While it’s an impressive showcase of Mackenzie’s talents, that’s really all it is - a showcase. The conceit of the other characters being spirits by whom she’s possessed is confusing and doesn’t lead anywhere - it’s not clear why we’re seeing these moments from their lives, or why they’ve had any reason to come back via this forced seance at all. The framing character of the hopeful (hopeless?) popstar doesn’t develop between each spirit’s appearance, so the whole package of the show feels short of any purpose.

Each character is strong, and there’s no doubt by the end that Mackenzie is a capable and flexible comic actress - it just would have made more sense to sell the whole thing as a one-woman sketch show, rather than mould it into the flimsy pretence of having something more to say.

Reviews by Caitlin Hobbs

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The Blurb

A girl dreams of becoming a pop superstar but happens to be clairvoyant. When she finally gets the chance to perform on stage, she finds that her show has been besieged by unresolved spirits. Forced to give voice to a catalogue of memories that are not hers, she must fight to get her own words heard and seize the moment as those of others disappear. Clairvoyant is a one-woman show that doesn't discriminate between life and death.