I’m sitting on a faded and slightly stained, orange chaise lounge, in a small coffee shop in Portland Maine. As if to remind me that I’m in New England, the lounge looks like an open clam. Someone near me has been smoking the same cigarettes as my grandmother. I can’t mistake that lingering, unpleasant scent of my grandparent’s house. I may look a little out of place in this sleepy but quaint fishing town in my sequined sweater and red lipstick. It’s fall, and quite brisk outside. The leaves have already turned and their remains are scattered all over the streets. I’m having a break from play rehearsals.
The process for staging Agorafaux-pas is coming along well. Better than expected actually. We are making minor changes to the script as we deal with the many logistics of staging. Otherwise, the script remains relatively intact and the first act is fully blocked. We are excitedly advertising tickets and all feeling a little overwhelmed with the pressure of memorising lines and pulling everything together for an audience.
I’m often pulled up short when a cast member remarks to me how “good” the play is, and how excited they are to be a part of it. I’m not new to self-doubt, as you know, but I’m finding it very difficult to think of my creative work as being any good. And I don’t mean not entertaining. It’s entertaining as fuck! It’s hilarious and the music is loads of fun! We are rolling on the floor laughing at ourselves during rehearsals. Yes it’s very entertaining, but is it actually good? Is it art? In my mind it’s all a bit silly. I’ve silly-fied important, intelligent sounding thought and theory. Every time I’ve tried to write in something serious, reflexive, or sombre, it just comes out a bit wanky and I feel I need to make a joke. Take the first paragraph of this blog entry. It’s complete wank. I usually write that dreary, arty, “I’m so deeply feeling things” wanky stuff first, then quickly start to hate it and rewrite it as a flippant joke. Such as, “I write to you today, my internet humans, from inside a clam shaped sofa. Let’s call her Clammy Faye, after the fabulous queen who took my hard earned tips after my faux queen pageant performance. Sorry for the scone crumbs and coffee I dropped in you Clammy.”
Is my attempt to de-wankify my work good practice, or not? Nobody likes a wanker, I know this, and my cast like the play. I mean they really like it. Which is great! But I worry that, in all my jokes and silly voices, I’ve lost the message I’m trying express. Sometimes I feel like the exegesis is the “smart” work and the play is the dumbed down version. Is this true? Maybe…
But maybe the play is the camped version of the exegesis. Perhaps it’s making fun out of something I take seriously? Not making fun of it, making fun OUT of it. Camp is a sneaky little bastard! I can feel it, and I know it when I see it. But try to explain it? I’ll be sitting here ‘till next Tuesday and still not have hit the nail on the head. I’ve read quite a bit on camp, I’ve sat and concentrated as the top scholars of camp attempt to explain it. The best I’ve heard on the topic was actually in the car on my trip to Maine. I was listening to Stephen Fry’s memoire “Moab is my Washpot” on audio book. (Yes I’ve come to that age when you listen to audio books on a car journey rather than your collection of Triple J’s hottest 100 albums with the windows down and the stereo up). At a sensible volume, I swam in the gorgeous voice of Fry explaining camp as an alternate world. A place to escape and find your people; designed especially for those who need something to escape into. Stephen Fry suggests that straight men don’t always understand camp, because they don’t NEED to. A needs based world of alternative access… not a terrible explanation of camp at all.