Having stressed over and over again the importance of making political art, performance diva Scottee, known equally for throwing spaghetti sauce over the audience and arranging weight-gaining competitions, has turned over a new leaf. His latest show, Camp, commissioned by the Roundhouse for their CircusFest, includes Scottee proclaiming the piece to be nothing more than light entertainment – an experiment to see if selling out will actually sell out.
Sell out it did – and presuming that was the intention, Camp is a resounding success. A variety of celebrity cameos and anonymous non-acts, the show cleverly chooses a form that allows for a complete absence of logic. Not many other genres could reconcile Dickie Beau’s nod to gay icons and a sketch by an incompetent yet confident rhythmic gymnast, or Myra Dubois’ take on children’s entertainment with a suitably subdued performances by the winner of the imaginary Baghdad’s Got Talent. Holding this showcase of campery together is Scottee himself, in a sequence of glittering sequinned costumes. He babbles, charms and interacts with the audience; he makes All Saints hits sound like real music and he dances to the Spice Girls. He’s also continuously funny and suitably close to offensive – as every self-respecting variety host should be.
Whether his wish to make entertainment for entertainment’s sake is not completely honest or whether he just strayed onto this path to meaningless pop, Scottee can’t resist the occasional brushes with the political. The performance casually comments upon the current Olympics craze and Baghdad’s Got Talent sequence takes the form of a slightly general outburst of political incorrectness; there’s several mentions of the recession, with pre-show videos advertising money-saving products like the 3-in-1 grill/iron/hair-straightener. The current-affairs miniatures however seem mismatched with the intentionally pointless, all-for-fun feel and content of the rest of the show. It’s not entirely clear if the intention was to seduce the audience with pop, only to disillusion them with politics, or if it just turned out that reactionary pieces are not that easy to make. Most of the sketches that make up Camp are undoubtedly hilarious, but put together they don’t make much of a point, mostly because they are so diverse.
Most of all, in his mission to take advantage of pure entertainment, Scottee seems to have underestimated his subject. Pop is a carefully crafted machine made out of subtle but thorough references to dominant cultural paradigms – subverting it is a task that takes more than simply changing the context or allowing for a couple of political intermissions. All Saints might sound more compelling when it’s Scottee performing their songs – but what’s on stage is still just a mediocre melody given a bit of life, rather than a complete overhaul, or indeed celebration, of the genre. That’s why Camp delivers on its promise of light entertainment, but somehow still disappoints (if only ever so slightly) when it fails to become more than a nonsensical parade of cliches taken to their extreme. For all the glitter, sing-alongs, choreography and campery, this show doesn’t leave much of an after-taste; instead you are left with a strong feeling that the brilliant, anticipated revelation simply never happened.
Camp is part of CircusFest 2012 , a celebration of international contemporary circus at the Roundhouse. Camo will be running on Saturday 14th April, Saturday 21st April, Saturday 28th April. Visit the Festival Blog for more details.