CAMP PARKER

In his new solo show, Camp Binch, Chris Parker lets his true colours shine.

North & South - - In This Issue -

In his new solo show, Camp Binch, Chris Parker lets his true colours shine.

The word “camp”, much like the word “girl”, hasn’t al­ways been used as a com­pli­ment. When ac­tor and co­me­dian Chris Parker was start­ing out, one re­viewer de­scribed him as “tal­ented if camp”; another “tal­ent­less and camp”. “It was weird,” he says. “And they were say­ing it as if I’m not aware of it.”

In his new solo show, Camp Binch, which pre­mieres at the Com­edy Fes­ti­val in May, Parker ex­plores the no­tion that camp­ness is “a re­ally warm, fun, charm­ing en­ergy to have” and that fem­i­nin­ity, in women and men alike, is ac­tu­ally some­thing to aspire to. “I thought for a while I could to­tally pump it up and be like a masc bro walk­ing down the street blend­ing in with the dudes. But I re­alised I’m very soft, very femme and very camp, and I love that about my­self. So that’s my jour­ney.”

As for “binch”, that’s a new word, born of the in­ter­net, for when you don’t want to say “bitch”. “It’s a term of en­dear­ment, al­beit a bit cheeky, whereas ‘bitch’ has of­ten been used as a neg­a­tive word against women.”

Grow­ing up, Parker found the Kiwi cul­ture of machismo and All Blackswor­ship, and the gen­eral dis­dain for per­form­ers and artists, akin to a tidal wave crash­ing over and threat­en­ing to drown him. Even now, when he makes cameo ap­pear­ances on TV com­edy show Seven Days, he angsts over what to wear. “I feel my­self de­sat­u­rat­ing, in a sense – ton­ing down the colours, the vi­brancy, so that I can fit in more.”

Parker cred­its David Halls, who he por­trayed in the wildly suc­cess­ful play Hud­son & Halls Live!, as an in­spi­ra­tion for let­ting his true colours shine. The orig­i­nal TV cook­ing show on which it’s based first aired more than 40 years ago in the con­ser­va­tive 1970s, but Halls and his part­ner Peter Hud­son, and their cheesy, creamy culi­nary style, were beloved by Kiwi au­di­ences, who must surely have re­alised they were an item. “David’s style of camp is re­ally dif­fer­ent to mine, but I re­ally found my voice as a camp per­former in him, and what it’s like to have the au­di­ence eat out of the palm of your hand.”

The show also taught him to set aside his nat­u­ral ten­dency to im­pro­vise, in favour of re­spect­ing a finely crafted script. “It’s like bak­ing a cake,” he says. “You can keep adding stuff or you can learn how to cook the same cake per­fectly ev­ery night. I had to learn how to re­ally lis­ten to the au­di­ence, and how to ex­e­cute ev­ery sin­gle joke the best way I pos­si­bly could.”

Dur­ing the Com­edy Fes­ti­val, Parker will also ap­pear in Gig­gly Ger­ties along­side Tom Sains­bury, best known for im­per­son­at­ing Na­tional deputy leader Paula Ben­nett. The show will be loose, weird, im­pro­vi­sa­tional and pos­si­bly in­volve aliens. It’s a dou­ble act in which nei­ther of them plays the straight guy, says Parker. “There’s never been a straight guy in any of my work.” JULIE HILL

* Camp Binch runs from May 9-12 at The Base­ment, Auck­land, between two sea­sons of Gig­gly Ger­ties (April 27May 5, Bats Theatre, Welling­ton; May 16-19, The Base­ment, Auck­land). Visit com­e­dyfes­ti­val.co.nz.

Co­me­dian Chris Parker chan­nels his in­ner All Black. “I think women and straight men can be camp, too. A light fix­ture can be camp. A du­vet can be camp. Ev­ery­thing.”

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