Oh Morrissey, you charming man, spokesman for the disaffected-teenager-turned-adult-cult-follower: Amy Lamé loves you, and she hates you, and she loves you. Doesn’t she? Does she? Do you care? Do we care? Who knows?
Amy Lamé enjoys an admittedly smaller but similarly loyal semi-cult following to Morrissey amongst the alternative London scene, which may explain why this odd production has attracted some high profile sponsors not usually found on the roughly photocopied programmes of fringe theatre productions. Her reputation and oddball star quality are certainly apparent in this show, which rests almost entirely on the dual personality cults of its two protagonists.
The Camden People’s Theatre is a lovely venue and its co-directors Jenny Paton and Brian Logan have updated it fantastically, making the most of its small but perfectly formed studio space. It works excellently for Lamé’s brand of bombastic comedy. She easily holds her own in the elaborately seedy space, bouncing off the walls, leaping from one side of the room to the other as unsuspecting audience members catch her eye, her attention drawn frequently and rapidly from one unlikely prop to another.
The evening takes the form of a conventional if slightly fraught birthday party and Lamé happily draws the audience into her world, creating an instant familiarity by respecting no boundaries and behaving exactly as if she had known you for years. She is pleasantly rude to everyone whilst marking everything she does with her own brand of surprising warmth - it is very difficult to resist her charm and over-excited teenage gusto.
The audience plays pass-the-parcel with her, joining her in her mission to investigate the life of (i.e. stalk) the fantastic Moz. Each layer of the parcel is unwrapped with trepidation by an audience member to reveal a prop to help her tell the next chapter in her odyssey. Each ‘prize’ involves a degree of audience participation some people may find frightening. Think of karaoke, sanitary towel bunting and exploded birthday cake and you’re nearly there.
Others, however, will find it great fun and there is much to be said for the joy with which Lamé flings herself into each new scenario. We are taken to Salford Lads’ Club, to Camden, to California and beyond on the wings of Lamé’s fandom. She queues for hours for tickets to his show, she uses and abuses her friends, she fantasises over what she and Morrissey will talk about when they finally get together and is beside herself as she describes the diminishing degrees of separation between her and her great obsession: "Morrissey is from up north," she exclaims happily, "and so is MY GIRLFRIEND!!! And her mum’s cousin married Morrissey’s sister! WOW!"
Although the show is kept on track by the structured chapters, there is a large amount of ad-libbing, which adds to the already anecdotal style of the performance. While this is undoubtedly her strength, its mileage is limited: the novelty of adults entering into the spirit of a teenager’s birthday party quickly begins to wear thin. Beyond Lamé’s own infatuation and subsequent disappointment with Morrissey, little else is explored in any depth.
How her love for him impacted on her life is not discussed. His wider cultural significance, through his lyrics, sexuality or general attitude to life are not explored, and no meaning is found or established in any of the entertaining but ultimately unsatisfying vignettes which make up the show. Even the fun, which is over the top and exuberant, feels like candyfloss, disappearing as soon as it appears and leaving you with an empty feeling of waiting for the reality of the initial promise to make itself apparent. If you are looking for any degree of depth whatsoever, this probably isn’t the show for you.
If, however, you want to be variously attracted and repelled by her unpredictability, there is a lot to enjoy. The curtains glitter, her lipstick glows, her quiff is suitably quiff-ish and the requisite mentions are made to feminism and the 1980s North of England. While these themes become sideshows, never really packing a punch, Lamé’s own brand of humour becomes the meat of the performance. We can enjoy the absurdity of her obsession, are shown her proud smiling face as she stands in front of his childhood home and are shocked as she forces her face, with devout conviction, into a decorated birthday cake, only to spend the rest of the show with icing smeared stickily to her cheeks.
The show reaches its pinnacle as she dons a Priest’s garb and blesses us not with holy water but with milk, the babyish smell of the cynically brilliant Morrissey. And all in all, people will leave happy, party hats and streamers trailing behind them in a sweet homage to their long-forgotten teenage selves.