"I could be one of the Boys," New Zealander Chris Parker sings ecstatically at the start of Camp Binch, wearing a shirt and leggings echoing Elaine Stritch's iconic one-woman show. It’s a heady introduction to 'camp', and quickly followed by a screeching of tyres as Parker dons a wig to become the kind of straight guy who's just incapable of saying the word "gay" while still attempting to address the proverbial elephant in the room.
Parker is full of sweaty energy, barely contained on his small stage, and ready with plenty of clever asides.
Then there's another swerve, as we switch back to Parker, and enter the main body of the show: a biographical 'investigation' into the experiences he's had in life, complete with a succession of school-related photographs taken from the Parker family album. There's an early brush with show business in the form of a TV advert for milk, and then the unavoidable progress through a succession of schools, during which straight guys have "worked you out before you've worked yourself out”. Leading to his experience of being asked back, as a notable former pupil, to address its traditional "Leavers’ Dinner".
Parker is full of sweaty energy, barely contained on his small stage, and ready with plenty of clever asides, not least his idea that nigh on any movie you can think of will be significantly improved by replacing one of the main characters with a camp gay old man. But there's a more serious point here too: that, particularly in his senior school years, he only survived the relentless homophobia prevalent in his rugby-loving, macho-straight New Zealand school because he was lucky enough to find a safe space in its Music and Drama Department alongside like-minded students.
Parker’s clearly heartfelt response to the subsequent discovery that this department had been lost in an earthquake, robbing current gay pupils of an oh-so-vital safe place, arguably endangers the light atmosphere he's spent so long creating. Bringing back the ultra-straight guy wig (now identified as his school's headmaster) and ending on a song do at least ensure his hour-long show has a certain symmetry, but in an unnecessarily disconcerting way.