The irony does not escape us as a confessed Smiths fan ushers unsuspecting audience members into the performance space and begins snapping party hats onto their heads. Smiths fans do not wear party hats. I’m not sure they even go to parties – not real parties anyway. Crying into the punch with the kitchen lights off doesn’t count.
This isn’t just any Smiths fan, this is Amy Lamé. A few minutes of Googling brings up on-stage debauchery with bright red lipstick, shouting and lady parts. This time she has Morrissey in her sights, and one of the chairs is left empty just in case he shows up (he doesn’t).
This one woman show is an ordeal for everyone involved. Morrissey songs are chewed, choked on and spat out as we watch a young fanatic grow into an even more obsessive adult. As she runs about, desperate for acceptance, or at least some sort of reaction from the audience, we’re playing the scariest game of pass the parcel ever conducted. When the past ‘winners’ have been invited up to sing, dance, and stick sanitary towels to their heads, the stakes are high.
The discomfort continues as Lamé talks with audience members and sprays food, hairspray and other sticky things around the place. Like a weird musical, you can feel a song coming on before it starts, and the lyrics pop up and around the place in various forms. But the crowd is willing, and a number of Smiths and Morrissey fans prove me wrong with their willingness to participate.
A crescendo of cake-smashing, clothes-ripping, lyric-screaming messiness ensues and no one knows whether to hug or slap our hysterical protagonist. She recalls being rejected by boys, feeling unattractive, and, worst of all, being snubbed by Morrissey at a record signing. Like all her hopes and dreams, this sneering quiff in a suit is a massive let down. But hey, it’s her party and she’ll cry if she wants to.
Unhappy Birthday is running until Sat 1 June at:
Camden People’s Theatre
28-60 Hampstead Road