Lion and Unicorn Theatre
Reviewed – 19th August 2019
“harbours a great concept and has significant potential”
Going away to camp is a rite of passage for most young people whether that be with the Scouts or for a musical festival. Camp, directed by James Easey, imagines a new type of camp retreat for which LGBT+ and queer folks go to earn their Gay-Card and officially join the community. Written by Easey and Kimberley Turford, Camp follows the camp experiences of three LGBT+ individuals as they study hard for lessons on everything from queer history to Voga (Voguing Yoga, of course!).
Felix (Nicholas Marrast-Lewis) is a loud, out-and-proud gay man who is woefully ignorant about the LGBT+ issues. Becky (Camille Wilhelm) is a bisexual woman who is passionate about fighting the bi erasure. Mary (Fizz Waller) is an ex-Christian who has just left her husband of seven-years after finally coming to terms with her attraction to women. The trio clash at first but are soon able to explore together the ways the community needs to do better.
Camp considers many important issues facing the modern LGBT+ and queer community, in particular, the in-fighting between bisexuals and homosexuals and negative attitudes towards trans individuals. The topics raised are interesting but discussion surrounding them is often derailed by Becky’s angry and often over-the-top reactions. Though Becky is understandably angry about the ignorance within a community that purports to be for her, it would be good if her character was mellowed to facilitate better dialogue amongst the characters.
The play is at its strongest when it engages the audience directly. At one point, the actors step out of their roles and ask the audience LGBT+ trivia. This is a great way to break up the action on stage and some facts – such as the word ‘homosexual’ only first being used in 1869 – are so shocking that they earn a collective gasp from the audience. Voga is also excellent fun, and gold sparkly Gay-Cards being gifted to every audience member is the perfect way to end the show.
The stage is not particularly remarkable. A futon to the left of the stage acts as both a sofa and a bed and two chairs with a small table to the right creates the impression of a classroom. Rainbow bunting hanging on the back wall is the only decoration that places them in a camp environment. Props are minimal but a colourful book with the words ‘The Book of GAY’ plastered across the front used for the quiz is notable.
The lighting is very simple. Scenes end with a fade to black so that the actors can reposition themselves on or off stage. This is not always done with good timing and one scene took place for about five seconds in the dark. At the end of another scene, the stage was made far darker than any previous transition which led the audience to believe the play was over and thus began to clap. This sort of inconsistency leads to substantial confusion and needs refining.
Waller is the standout star. She is wonderfully funny as May and fully engages the audience. Her comic timing is excellent and her quick wit in response to unexpected moments such as when an audience member interrupted her reading out a quote make up some of the performance’s funniest moments. Wilhelm and Marrast-Lewis stumble over several of their lines, and their arguments are not convincing in tone or escalation despite the strong script.
Camp harbours a great concept and has significant potential, but a fine tune of its characters and the play’s execution is needed to really drive home the important issues that it endeavours to explore.
Reviewed by Flora Doble
Lion and Unicorn Theatre until 24th August as part of Camden Fringe 2019
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: