Amy LamÃÂ© invites you to her Unhappy Birthday : review
Manchester Contact Theatre
18 May 2011
Check Unhappy Birthday for details.
Few artists, if any, can equal or attract such deranged devotional disciples as Morrissey, and over 90 minutes Amy LamÃÂ© (as in ”Ëlah-may’ not a dodgy leg; finding the inflected ”Ëe’ is a pain on the keyboard, so from now on, ride with it) takes us on a journey across the landscape of the obsessiveness of fandom.
However this is no dour introspection of the bedroom rebel without a cause, but a celebration of all things Moz, and the effect he has on those bitten by the bug. Clearly those in question were out in force tonight and packed into the intimate environment of the Contact studio theatre, puffs (me included), lesbians, bookish oddballs, bequiffed gents of all ages, and curious Smiths fans on a weekend away from the (work or dole) office. Who on arrival are greeted with party hats, poppers (the ones with streamers inside not the little bottles not you sniff on the dance floor) and cheesy Wotsits by Amy herself, inviting you to her birthday party.
Each seat has its own photocopied mini Moz fanzine (how 1980s), inclusive of a ”Ëset list,’ which turns out to be the themes explored as the show progresses. Yet one seat remains empty, the one clearly reserved for Morrissey himself, will he accept the invite and turn up? Well, not tonight. However word has it that his sister is due to attend one of the two Manchester shows, and indeed she could have been in attendance this evening. We can only presume Moz has sent a spy out to check out the show, as if he doesn’t know about it, of course he does! Short of his own Royal Command private performance it unlikely he will ever attend in person, but then again he’s so bloody unpredictable; I wouldn’t chance a bet either way.
Let the games begin. The sparse set consists of a table with a large present upon it, whist the sound system blasts out a radio broadcast of ecstatically unbalanced Moz fans calling an American radio station to speak to the man in person, already we know this is no RSC production. Amy appears decked out on Moz t-shirt, of course, a tight black skirt and leggings. Her usual attire is akin to a hybrid of Beth Ditto meets the preppy retro chic of Mad Men, she is no size zero and damn proud of it.
The audience are immediately drawn into participation as the present becomes the focus of pass the parcel, although the only one I have ever witnessed that consisted of a musical back drop of exclusively Moz and Smiths tunes. Whenever the music stops the person holding the parcel unwraps a layer and the item within is incorporated into the show, along with the lucky individual who won that round, who is then extracted from the audience and onto the stage, willingly or not. It becomes quickly apparent that numerous people are it avoiding possession as rapidly as possible, so as not to be dragged up, but Amy has a sharp eye for a late unauthorised pass in the sudden silence. I won’t divulge the various contents, other than to say don’t expect a bag of sweets or a kids toy.
Then the moment arrives; half way through the show I am in possession of the parcel as the music stops. Having been a regular attendee of the avant garde, anti corporate gay scene, ”Ëworking class honky tonk,’ club night ”ËDuckie’ in London, of which Amy is your hostess. I simply have to accept that anything could happen to me over the next few minutes. I eventually leave the stage out of breath, smeared in lipstick, stinking of hairspray and with a bellyful of skimmed milk, go figure! Other themes include ”ËMoz-eoke,’ guess the weight of the cake, a quasi religious sing along and my personal highlight ’30 Things I Blame Morrissey For.’ One is being ”Ëmiddle aged men who use a quiff to hide their bald patch,’ which was clearly directed towards one poor chap; who informed me later he was complimented to still be considered as middle aged. I’ll leave the other 29 for you to discover and enjoy in person.
Whist it’s certainly an advantage to have some knowledge of the Smiths and Morrissey’s output, and his Bigmouth Strikes Again controversial outpourings, it’s not a prerequisite to enjoy the show. It was interesting to speak to Unhappy Birthday’s director Scotee, who could spot the split in the audience members, between those who were either theatre or gig goers, due to the way they sat, observed and interacted. Nonetheless it was apparent given the rapturous applause and post show bar chat that the vast majority (if not all) of those in attendance left entertained, amused or bemused, but probably a mixture of all three.
Unhappy Birthday is currently on a short UK tour before hitting the Edinburgh Fringe, 3 – 27 August.
Go see This Charming (Wo)man for yourself.
31 May & 1 June, Brighton.
8 June, Birmingham.
22 June, Colchester.
29 June, Norwich.