Reviewed by Eilis Lee.
As soon as Chris Parker, comedian and star of Netflix’s The Breaker-Upperers, steps onto stage, you know you’re in for an energetic hour. In Camp Binch, Parker uses his platform to its full potential, quite literally. Not only is his intensely personal subject matter important, but the man can move. At times, his faux leather-trousered form practically leaps across the stage; he’s glittering with sweat beneath the stage lights, which becomes a running gag after he warns the front row about sitting in his very own “splash zone”. This dynamism never lets up as Parker, with the aid of some deliciously-90s childhood photos, takes those gathered on a comic voyage through his life.
From his time as New Zealand’s premier child actor to his excruciating high school years as a gay youth in a rural, rugby-mad school, Parker’s stories mix the hilarious with the sometimes heart-wrenching; this is a show about identity, community and acceptance, replete with musical numbers and celebrations of the gay agenda. There’s some interesting character comedy and wig-work dotted throughout, but this falls flatter than much of the rest of Parker’s material. If these sections were tightened up and the characterisation deepened a little, Camp Binch could feel like a much smoother, slightly less frenetic show.
Saying this, most of the audience were fully involved and very entertained, especially a vocal American couple that Parker adopted as his new parents (“sorry, mum and dad!”, he jokes to his own parents, who are actually watching this performance). Even if I wasn’t so much a fan of the character interludes, the ending of Camp Binch—a message about creating and nurturing spaces where everyone can be seen and supported, no matter their interests, sexualities or wider identities—still hits hard and remains very necessary. At times it seems slightly unpolished, but Camp Binch is still properly good fun and Parker’s verve is often captivating to witness.
Chris Parker: Camp Binch runs at Assembly Studio 5 at 18:50 until 25th August.