Camden Fringe Review 2022

Camden Fringe Review 2022

I love going to the Camden Fringe. You never know what sort of show you are going to see, it’s like putting your hand into a lucky dip.

In 2020 the Camden Fringe was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic and in 2021 I was still remote working and I couldn’t justify traveling up to London to watch a single play. This year now that I’m back in London, I aimed to see as many performances as I could.

Before we begin, I just want to say that I don’t write negative reviews. People dedicate countless hours into producing and performing these shows and just because it wasn’t to my taste doesn’t mean I, or anyone else, should bad mouth it online. If I didn’t like your play, unless it was incredibly offensive (such as starting a physical fight with an audience member) I simply won’t mention it.

With all that out of the way, lets begin…

Camden Fringe 2022 logo

Someone Else’s Shoes.

The first show, Someone Else’s Shoes, was held in a pub called 2Northdown at King’s Cross. The performance was four monologues written from different points of view about society. The first was about the struggles of being a black woman in our modern culture and the second about a man within a church forced to hide his sexuality for fear of ostracised. The third monologue came from a woman who had a traumatic sexual experience (to quote her opening line, “So, I dislocated my jaw sucking my ex-boyfriend’s willy”) and struggled to find a place into our sex obsessed world. While I agree that our society has an unhealthy obsession with sex and attractiveness, it was the final monologue that I enjoyed the most. The piece was performed by a character with a stutter who was struggling to navigate our impatient and intolerent world. Matt Hansen (the actor portraying our fourth protagonist) did a fantastic job, showing his character’s frustration of being unable to communicate clearly with others and feeling left behind or discarded.

I didn’t start talking until I was five years old and when I did I put a ‘guh’ sound into everything. Train began guhrain. Duck became guhuck. Eventually I learned to overcome my stammer but when I’m tired or nervous I stumble over my words. It’s incredibly frustrating. However, as the performance pointed out, many figures that we relate with intelligence (Barrack Obama or Jo Biden being prime examples) have or had stutters. There is a common school of thought that people with stutters struggle with their words because their mouths can’t keep up with the processing speed of their brains. I don’t know if that is true or not but I would like to believe it is.

Julie: The Musical

Julie: The Musical is based on the real-life Julie d’Aubigny a 17th century French opera singer and socialite. D’Aubigny’s chaotic life reads like the plot of a novel, she fled her home with her lover, made a living on the road by staging duels, burnt down a convent, became a star of the French opera, a mistress to a Spanish Countess and most notably lived as an openly bisexual woman.

The historical documents relating to d’Aubigny are few and those that have survived the passage of time are suspected to be exaggerated, similar to a modern day celebrity gossip column. To address this, the show is told directly to the audience by Julie herself via song, opera, cabaret and at one point a sword fighting tap dance number! While the whole show was wonderfully camp and lots of fun (I would liken it as a mash up of Hamilton and The Great), I want to focus on one aspect in particular. At the start of the show Julie explains that she has inserted one fake plot into the performance and asks the audience to guess which plot thread that is. I’m going to give a mild spoiler so if you plan on watching after the Camden Fringe, please skip the rest of this section. Just know I award the Julie: The Musical ten swords out of ten.

The real Julie d’Aubigny

At the end of the show, Julie receives a happily ever after. She reunites with a former lover Marie De Florensac and spends the last two years of her life living in bliss. However, as our Julie explains in the final number, this didn’t happen in real life. The real Julie lived in a convent before dying of a fever at the age of thirty-three. Julie’s plea to ‘Please don’t dim the lights, please’ as darkness descends is heart wrenching. Both the audience and the character know that she is fighting the inevitable. Julie’s body was unceremoniously dumped by nuns who deprived her of a grave. While Julie: The Musical is inspirational, it is above all else a tragedy.

To quote the famous phrase: the brightest light only burns for half as long.

However, the point of Julie: The Musical is to inspire the audience. They should try to live their life on their own terms and take comfort in the fact that people like Julie have existed throughout history. Life isn’t a straightforward linear plot, it has twists and backtracks and doesn’t suit the page or stage unaltered. However, with the use of creative licence, while respecting the source material you can make a specular and inspirational story.  

To summarise, if the real Julie d’Aubigny could see her show, I’m sure she would be proud.

Billy Parva

You know someone like Billy Parva. The sort of person who chats unbelievable shit. If you are from my generation, think of Jay from the Inbetweeners but older. Billy both amazes and amuses the audience with stories of his life. How he left school early after having sex with a teacher, how he joined and later taught the special division of the British Army. How he survived an ambush in Afghanistan by deflecting bullets with nunchucks and a knife blade. How he worked as a bodyguard for royalty. How his marriage started… and later ended. How he turned to drink. How he began to feel distant from the real world. How he ended his own life…

As the show progresses the audiences realises that Billy’s stories are his way of compensating. For all his big talk Billy always desperate for the attention and approval from his Father. We never learn the truth about Billy, the audience don’t know what parts of his story, if any, are real and we never learn why his Father rejected him. We soon come to realise that Billy is a tragic figure who deserves our pity.


Before I talk about the play I want to quickly talk about the venue. The Little Angel Theatre is based in Islington and mostly performs puppet shows for children. I know I have a few parents who read this website who are based in London. When I was growing up I was a fan of Gerry Anderson’s Supermarionation shows such as Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlett. Before the play I was able to peruse the puppets and found it fascinating. If you are in the London area and have a child who would be interested, please do check them out.

The play Carmilla was based off the novel of the same name. In the novel Laura, who lives with her Father in an abandoned castle, takes in a young woman called Carmilla who was wounded in a carriage crash. Laura and Carmilla form a romantic relationship, Carmilla comforts Laura when she suffers reoccurring nightmares of being attacked in the night. Carmilla is later exposed as a vampire who has used different identities throughout her time on Earth. Laura never fully recovered from the relationship, either physically or emotionally.

The novel was first published in 1872 and notable for several reasons. As well as including many gothic tropes, such as a haunted castle and a plague spreading across the land, the novel was also praised for its depiction of Victorian woman as a pro-active rather than re-active characters.  More importantly it is a rare instance as of LGBTQ+ literature during the Victorian era, echoing my comments on Julie: The Musical,. It is also(as far as my research has uncovered) the first piece of lesbian vampire literature.

However, there was one slight hiccup with the show. Actually, a major hiccup. At one point a Doctor is called to examine Laura following a nightmare. The Doctor… didn’t arrive on stage. The actor missed their entrance queue. I don’t know what caused this to happen, but I sympathise with the cast and crew completely. In 2016 I had a play performed at the Chelsea Theatre and one actor missed their queue, It’s devastating. Luckily, in both instances, the crew were professional and covered for the mistake.

The show must always go on.

Delusions and Grandeur

When we entered the theatre an usher told us to sit in the front two rows. This already made me uneasy, as I hate audience interaction. My fears grew when Karen Hall entered the stage holding a six inch subway sandwich and the house lights didn’t dim. I have an fear of being dragged onstage in front of a crowd or of my phone going off and become the centre of attention. I find the darkness of the theatre comforting. Fortunately when Karen spoke to the audience while eating her subway, it felt more like a one sided conversation with a friend rather than a monologue, as though we were speaking over lunch. Karen began to explain her life story with interludes of music, how she wanted to play the cello to become cool (all the cool kids can make music) and where her forty thousand hours of practice took her.

I will admit that I don’t know much about classical music. I can name a few composers such as Mozart and Beethoven but I can’t tell you much about their lives (I’m sure one of them was deaf?) and I can’t play any instruments but I can appreciate the music itself. It’s powerful, it has an emotional impact on you. A bit like writing now I think about it. Unlike writing, you don’t have the author watching you as they read. As she played Karen looked each audience member in the eyes.

As she performed Karen questioned why and how she had lost her own identity to her cello. If you don’t know members of the orchestra wear black in order to be hidden by the shadows and not to draw attention away from the stage. They should be the opposite of children, Karen said. Heard and not seen. Karen was not praised for her performances although her talent was recognised by her peers. When in public with her cello she complained that people would ask about Karen the musician and and not Karen, the human. She also questioned why we follow ancient traditions created set by men who died nearly two hundred years ago and why we hold them in such high regard.

Karen mentioned that she felt trapped behind her cello for most of her life and I feel as if she created this show to promote herself as a comedian and actor. Bravo Karen, you did an excellent job.

The next time you see a live orchestra, please spare a thought for humans behind their instruments.

Blink And You’ll Miss It

Blink and You’ll Miss it is the story of how Terry (the performer) met and married his husband and became ambassadors for the Stonewall charity, helping gay men with HIV and AIDS. Although Terry tells us some of his own personal antidote’s such as failing an audition for a boyband and having a slanging match with Simon Cowell on the X-Factor, the real star of the piece is Terry’s absent husband.

Terry explained that his husband comes from a country (I can’t remember which one. I want to say Yemen?) where it is punishable by death for being homosexual. When his sexuailty was discovered by his family he was beaten and fled the country. After being forced to work in a brothel where he sustained permanent feet, spine and head injuries, Terry’s husband sought asylum in England. Throughout all of this he maintained a positive attitude and during his relationship with Terry, despite being pictured sunbathing by the media and facing racists and homophobes everyday, continued to smile.

At the end of the show Terry revealed a picture of his husband and explains the show is in his memory. He was attached by a drunks at Covent Garden who stamped on his head which, weaken by his previous injuries, resulted in his death. Terry explained that his husband would want the audience to laugh, not cry at his story. Truly a beautiful way to end the show.

However when the applause died down Terry issued a correction. His performance has been inspired by real stories, but not his own. He’d stitched the stories he had been told together to form a new narrative. I had guessed this before hand. I had seen a picture of Terry and his husband on his social media and had been wondering why he was describing his husband as African when he is clearly Asian. As I have said previously life doesn’t suit the page unaltered. With a bit of creative licence it is easy to weave a great story.

Self Defence for Time Travelers

My final show was held in the same venue as the first, 2 Northdown at King’s Cross. I was lucky enough to bump into Michelle one of the creators of the Camden Fringe. The Fringe has been running for nearly sixteen years and although I’ve only been attending the last five years, it was still delightful to meet one of the original founders. Surprisingly the team behind the Camden Fringe is only run by Michelle and one other person. I always assumed it was a team of at least thirty sitting in an office block somewhere. They do a fantastic job organising one hundred plus shows.

It will come as no surprise to regular readers that I have nerdy interests. I’ve already made a post about the fictional languages of the Star Wars Universe and have analysed and dissected Shakespeare’s plays countless times. I was glad to see that I was among the like-minded at the final show. Capozzola prides himself on nerd cred and happily recounted tales of living in the Space Race and receiving a letter from NASA as a child. I’m sure, if asked, Capozzola would tell you the different symbolic meaning behind the different colour of lightsabers. We were treated to a Powerpoint presentation (that isn’t sarcasm, I genuinely enjoy a well presented Powerpoint) on how to survive the perils of time travel. Rule number one: Don’t monkey about with the time stream. It was a laugh a slide and felt like a mini convention in its own right. I left with a wide smile on my face.

As I hope you can tell I really enjoyed this year’s Fringe. If you’re interested, I’ll add hyperlinks to previous reviews below.

Camden Fringe Review 2018

Camden Fringe Review 2019

I wish every performance that I saw this month the very best of luck for the future.

Take care everyone and I’ll see you next year.

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