Camp- Etcetera Theatre, Camden


“You feel good as you are. Fair enough. I won’t challenge that. A lot of people don’t. They sign in here. We don’t force them. And they feel understood. They feel themselves after years of lying. Why should you take that away?”

Camp is a fictional comedy-drama based on the true account of a gay-to-straight conversion camp. Evangelical Jessye from Springfield, Missouri is in charge of the first British outpost in Caerphilly. Scott is a Welshman struggling to cope with his hidden homosexuality. And Stuart is a Londoner whose cynicism about everything makes you wonder why he came. But all is not as it seems, and no one’s secrets can stay in the closet. Will the camp survive?

               ~ blurb from Etecetera Theatre website

This is the play that finally caused me to get my act together and set up this blog. I don’t think for a second I have a mass of followers, but I still need to get the word out somehow. This play needs to be seen and for that to happen; it needs another run and for like minded people to know about it. A tweet of one line from the play allowed me to convince two people to abandon plans to see James McAvoy in The Ruling Class. Hopefully I can repeat the process with this review.
Focusing on a number of days at a UK conversion camp, the hour long play follows three men down a rabbit hole of discovery, deception and disaster. It’s a three man play with a sparse, well utilised, set.

Tom Scurr plays the reluctant Stuart and he does it with an amazing charm and a beautiful, yet reserved, unravelling when frustration gets the better of him. It is in the final act, however, where he gets to shine by taking the floor to address the issues brought into focus by the proceedings of the play. It hadn’t hit me before, but this man would make a perfect Rimmer if they ever rebooted Red Dwarf.
Jess Jones is Scott, Welshman chatterbox who is nervous about his conversion. Jones is able to bring a perfect balance of innocence, comedy and a hint of desperation in his portrayal. He is a delight to have on the stage, even if he was the man to reduce me to a blubbering mess after stealing everyone’s hearts with his humour.
Finally, Jessye is played by River Hawkins. Jessye is the ideal man to both Scott and Stuart, but for two very different reasons. Hawkins works well with both Scurr and Jones, but it is when he is retelling his ‘outing’ as a teen that he is able to bring a true vulnerability to the part and ensure every eye is on him.

What I love about this play,is that it has something to say and it does it with heart, courage and a good smattering of laughs. I truly left the theatre knowing I was on the right side of progress, even if the final act made me cry. It also contained what was quite possibly the hottest scenes I’ve yet to experience on the stage, reminding me it doesn’t matter what age, gender or sexuality you are; passion is the key.

The final lines must be given to the writer/director Anthony Simpson-Pike who created this work. This play is truly amazing, truthful and hard hitting, it is something that has created a bench mark for all other theatre to meet.


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