Clinton Baptiste: The Paranormalist Returns
- Jay Richardson
- 16 March 2020
Corpse-bothering capers lag slightly but peak with gallows humour
So-called psychics, mediums and clairvoyants project an abundance of charlatanism, showbusiness naffness and fey vanity, making them ripe for mockery. Those who have channelled from 'the other side' include Marc Wootton as Shirley Ghostman, Tom Binns as Ian D Montfort and now Alex Lowe as Clinton Baptiste.
Despite entering the public consciousness almost two decades ago on the sitcom Phoenix Nights, Baptiste has retained a presence throughout the intervening years with occasional live revivals and a popular podcast, with Lewis MacLeod's cameo here as fellow camp corpse-botherer Ramone just one of several appreciative nods for the fanbase. After cougarish support act Nina Gilligan had taken the measure of the crowd with an entertaining set, Lowe wafted on with a portentous, ethereal enigma, only to instantly dispel the illusion with his screeching Bolton delivery.
For all of his pretensions to glamour and professed communication with other realms, Baptiste is transparently stuck in the faded, sticky-floor fug of the northern club circuit. His jealousy of television psychics Sally Morgan and the late Derek Acorah are the most obvious manifestation of his thinly veneered insecurity and prickliness. His interactions with the crowd are defined as much by instinctive snobbery as his complete inability to read minds, an occasionally successful stab in the dark hailed as a showstopping feat of wonder.
A broader caricature than D Montfort, less concerned with subtleties of audience manipulation, Baptiste is nevertheless full of amusing verbal and physical tics. Abandoning the stage, Lowe works the room engagingly, with each exchange providing a catty insult. The show's latter part, in which Baptiste strives to communicate with his geriatric lover beyond the grave is ill-focused and goes on far too long. Yet he leaves with an upward swing through his semi-improvised responses to suggestions for departed celebrities he should contact, the cheeky gallows humour eliciting big guffaws.
Clinton Baptiste: The Paranormalist Returns runs until Friday 19 June. Seen at Glee, Glasgow.