Absurd, funny and classic Clary...
It is not hard to imagine authoring a piece of fiction and Devil in Disguise is certainly a whirlwind of fictitious shenanigans. Molly: a forlorn romantic treading her way precariously through life with a certain degree of exuberance, shameless brashness and impressive naivety. Simon: her gay-best-friend, caustic, thrill-seeking, alcoholic and suspected sex addict. Together, they attempt to muddle through their respectively pitiful and wayward lives; Molly as a wannabe singer and Simon as a layabout living off his inheritance until the unintentional arrival of his alter ego: Genita L’Warts (a precocious, hideous drag queen with a mouth as filthy as the river Thames).
Molly discovers Lilia in Northampton on her last leg of a sub-rate theatre tour; the elderly German lady tells tall tales of her own stardom now lost and the reality of retiring to a non-descript bungalow and a disabled husband. Eccentric and odd, certainly, Molly still feels an emotional connect and when, on her return to London and her boyfriend, Daniel, she discovers the sordid affair between him and best friend Simon, Lilia becomes her immediate refuge. Whilst Simon’s brief dalliance with showbiz is abruptly upended and his life spirals out of control; Molly is being recreated by Lilia. Force-fed a cocktail of cigarettes, brandy and various drugs; Molly is transformed into Mia Delvard, a disconcerting younger version of Lilia herself.
Devil in Disguise is about the friendship between Molly and Simon – about being a gay’s best friend in all its permutations – good and bad; an epigram about the dangers of show business and the madcap personalities that are drawn to it like sweat to an armpit and almost certainly a parody of Misery.
Clary’s is a brisk style. Disquieting, uncomfortable, occasionally sexually graphic, often funny – it is the sincerity and depth of his characters that is surprising. No matter how brusque Clary is with Molly and Simon’s relationship, no matter how much he pulls at it, stretches it; it remains solid. Defiant, even. It is as though Clary himself is in awe of the temerity of true friendship – the kind that outlasts relationships, work and good health; the kind that lasts forever. Clary does permit a self-indulgent nod at himself; vicariously being mentioned by his characters and accused of being “a dirty queen”, but only after allowing his characters to trill about his comedic skills.
Devil in Disguise is utter nonsense, a tad self-indulgent, an enlightening account of the jobbing artists’ life and a knowing nod in the direction of unacceptable humour. Such a literary convolution shouldn’t sit together neatly on the page and yet it does. Clary is witty, derisive, awful, solemn, tender, camp and definitely memorable; Devil in Disguise is, in turn, all of these things, which is quite an achievement.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012