So much more than a mere paper tiger
Dazzling costumes are his bag
HE DREAMT of Marilyn Monroe in a paper costume one night in his home town of Venice, Italy. The next morning Ennio Marchetto woke up and began to cut and assemble a paper dress, akin to the famous white dress the actress wore over a manhole cover.
That was when he was 23. Now, at 56, Marchetto tours the world with scores of singing characters performed with paper costumes.
Marchetto whizzes through his act on the stage of the Jive Cape Town Funny Festival, on at the Baxter until next Sunday, as he changes costumes and characters every minute.
He goes from Miriam Makeba to Justin Bieber to Dolly Parton and Freddie Mercury. The costumes bring the characters to life, complete with hair, teeth and even handbags.
Parton and Celine Dion offer a few gasp-worthy surprises and plenty of laughs.
Marchetto has been described as “the world’s only living cartoon” and a “comic origamist”.
He said he has to add a layer of plastic to the paper costumes he designs with costume designer Sosthen Hennekam.
“That is what is between me and the paper. I sweat every night and I need to protect the costumes, some I can use up to 200 times. My Mona Lisa costume is three years old.”
His Dion costume can get dirty, thanks to all the white.
An interesting local element in the show is his rendition of Makeba’s Pata Pata.
“I wanted something South African and I know the song and I love it... I have 70 different characters and can lip sync everything from Japanese to Portuguese. I adapt the show in each country.”
He draws inspiration from videos and pictures of the character; for Makeba’s costume, the hat is inspired by one she wore on an album cover.
Although Hennekam is a partner in the production, Marchetto directs himelf.
“I do the aesthetic work, I use the mirror to practise new characters; Adele is one of these.”
What Capetonians are see- ing is a snapshot of his act which can go on for an hour. His songs are usually two minute-performances, while at the Funny Festival they are just a minute, adding the element of speed.
“Most of the job is behind the curtain. I change myself. All the paper costumes are laid out flat and I slip on each one and a wig. I’ve been doing the show for 28 years.”
Monroe is the personality who changed his life and he is affectionate about her.
While he was growing up, his family owned a coffee shop. When his father left work for the day, he would close the shop, switch on the radio, and practise his impersonations of Boy George, Tina Turner and Elton John.
Marchetto created some if his first costumes for the Venetian Carnival. “I would create costumes with raw materials, plastic, anything I could find. Then, I had the dream of Marilyn Monroe dressed in paper.”
It looks like the paper costumes are here to stay. “Others use fabric. Paper is more comical and I can do more things with it. I won’t leave paper. I also couldn’t do this show without velcro. There’s always Scotch tape and staples at hand.”
Tickets are R170 and available through Computicket. See www. facebook. com/ CapeTownFunnyFestival or www. i nsta gram. c om/ c apetownfunnyfestival for more.
Italian paper-costume cabaret artist Ennio Marchetto performs at this year’s Jive Cape Town Funny Festival.