Mayfest, Bristol’s unique annual festival of theatre and the performing arts, kicked off in typically idiosyncratic style with the variety showcase of ‘Scottee’s Camp.’ The clue, of course, was in the title but the pre-show soundtrack of Village People’s ‘In The Navy’ followed by Scottee’s entrance to ‘YMCA’ leaves no doubt that tonight’s entertainment will be of a, let’s say, flamboyant nature. With a mixture of singing, dancing, magic, bearded drag queens and feather boas, it’s all as camp as a row of tents.
Scottee comes out to what he deems an unsatisfactory level of applause and makes the diva-esque demand that we all start again before leading the audience in a YMCA sing-along and introducing his two perpetually sullen sidekicks Japan’s People. For those of you born after 1973, that’s a play on words referencing ‘Top of The Pops’ dance troupe ‘Pan’s People.’ And that’s not even all the acts with TOTP based puns in their name – but more about Legs & Coq later.
Adorned in a sparkly silver one piece outfit before a myriad of spangled costume changes over the course of the evening, Scottee is an engaging compere throughout as he tells stories, interacts with the audience and intermittently badgers an elderly man called Raymond who is unfortunate enough to be sat in the Stage Right box seats.
The first act to be introduced is someone that “has been on the television, you know” and the winner of ‘Baghdad’s Got Talent’ then performs the first in a series of knowingly dubious displays of talent – these mostly revolving around the visual joke of wearing a full burka and performing such feats as tap dancing, stripping and ventriloquism while completely enshrouded in cloth.
Josephine Shaker then performs a tap dance with a hatful of fruit before said fruit starts to tumble downwards as if the stage floor was Dani Alves and her Carmen Miranda style headwear an angry Spanish racist. She appears again in the second half in a similar set piece; this time the fruit being replaced by lights on her outfit and the final reveal of a flashing, lit up backside.
Dickie Beau delivers perhaps the evening’s most impressive performance as he channels the spirit of Kenneth Williams through the faultless lip-synching of a lengthy anecdote the Carry On star once disclosed on a television chat show. Using gestures and facial expressions, Dickie really brings the story to life and halfway through it is only the audible hiss of the chat show recording that makes me remember that he is lip-synching and not in fact Williams himself.
Then it’s time for TOTP pun based drag duo Legs & Coq as they perform the first of two fairly pointless synchronised dance routines involving muchas bum wiggling and kick-ball changes. Good fun as it all was up until this point, this is the first moment where I realise that perhaps balmy Spring evenings could be better spent than sitting in a darkened room watching grown men twerking their buttocks while dressed as Austrian Eurovision contestants.
Scottee being the main star of the show, of course doesn’t just take a backseat as compere; he performs several acts throughout including the donning of a single sequined glove that make him appear like “the love child of Lizi Manelli and Michael Jackson” as he gives the audience some true cabaret in the form of a purposely erratic rendition of All Saints’ ‘Never Ever.’ He also maintains his entertaining interaction with the audience while offering up amusing asides like his desire of one day creating his “Schindler’s List on Ice starring Seal” stage show.
The second half begins with Scottee reading out some Tweets sent by members of the audience before the interval. The Fix’s very own philanthropic, cat-shaving bastion of all things nautical, Conal Dougan then gets his moment as his Tweet comparing Scottee with a Tellytubby Kim Jong Il is read out by the very man being insulted. The jury is still out on whether Scottee actually more resembles the short back and sides podginess of Kim Jong Un but, nonetheless, it gets one of the night’s biggest laughs.
Appearing for the first time tonight, Jayde Adams, a “fishmonger from Bedminster” then parodies the cringe-inducing emphasis on sentimentality employed on shows such as ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ by offering up her sob story that her cat Gus had recently snuffed it. She then adroitly sings ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ save a comical chug on her inhaler before the song’s final note.
The highlight of the second half is the second appearance of drag act Ginger Johnson as she devours an entire jar of Frankfurter sausages in amusing synchronisation to music. Not really a premise that should be entertaining, it is all a case of timing as Ginger employs a number of ways of suggestively eating the sausages and drinks ketchup through a straw before downing the jar’s remaining contents and collapsing off the stage in a woozy, brine induced stupor.
It is a testament to the quirky humour in evidence tonight that the show ends with the perennially mute and miserable Japan’s People remaining on stage and blankly staring into space while the lights come on and the initially confused audience start to depart. It has been an entertaining evening and ‘Scottee’s Camp’ as a single show perhaps encapsulates the quirky and varied entertainment available in Bristol from 15th – 25th May.
Mayfest is underway and Scottee has provided a charmingly camp curtain raiser.
By Scott Hammond