Ennio Marchetto has been a living cartoon for two decades now. The Venetian made his name by morphing into exaggerated forms of popular icons, from the Mona Lisa to Madonna, Pavarotti to Eminem, using paper costumes. He paints his outfits himself, and, with a quick flick or a fold, can transform them into yet another costume in a flash.
New characters for his Christmas show in London will include Lily Allen, Shakira, Kylie Minogue, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Boy George and Celine Dion - Marchetto has now imitated more than 200 personalities. For his impressions of singers, he lip-synchs their most famous song, and at the end of his shows, he leaves the stage littered with discarded costumes, like a bedroom after a trying-on session.
How did the original concept come to him? "One night, I had a dream that Marilyn Monroe was dressed in paper," he says. "When I awoke, I took some cardboard and cut the costume."
Marchetto began by making costumes and masks for the carnival in Venice, and his show took off once he had teamed up with the designer Sosthen Hennekam. "Some of the costumes take three days to create," says Marchetto. In 1990, he appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but his show was largely made up of Italian characters. He quickly swapped them for internationally recognisable faces such as the Queen, Tina Turner, and even the Venus de Milo.
After several UK tours, West End runs and international festivals, Marchetto and Hennekam were nominated, in 1994, for a Lawrence Olivier Award, and, for his off-Broadway run in 1999, Marchetto was nominated for a Drama Desk Award. In 1998, he did the Royal Variety Performance, and in 2004, performed at Morrissey's Meltdown festival.
Marchetto's favourite sketch is the surreal Mona Lisa one, in which his hands, face and legs move freely behind the framed painting attached to his body, all to a background soundtrack of Shocking Blue's "Venus".
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