‘If you really love someone, you tell them they’re fabulous, but you also tell them when they’re shit,’ Amy Lamé told Gay Star News over some tea and biscuits.
‘THAT’S the type of relationship I have with Morrissey’.
With the help of friend and fellow performance artist Scottee, the quick-witted Amy Lamé has turned her ‘fan-ness’ and obsession with Morrissey into an interactive play.
Titled Unhappy Birthday, after the melancholy lyrics of the Morrissey song, the show explores the good, the bad and the ugly that comes with being a Morrissey devotee. It seems with Morrissey, there is much good and bad to be had. As Scottee said: ‘Morrissey writes about things being like shit, and the glory of things being like shit’.
The gloomy nature of the former Smiths frontman’s lyrics, transposed into an interactive performance, means audiences can expect a refreshing take on the ideas of expectation and disappointment. Audiences can also expect to participate in an unconventional way. Lamé says: ‘I have the audience help me make the show every night’.
Lest that deter audiences from attending, Scottee is quick to point out: ‘The only victim in the show is Amy. She always belittles herself and covers herself in cake and ketchup.’
In Unhappy Birthday, Lamé looks into the pain and glory of celebrating a birthday with strangers as friends and a very important guest missing. The festivities are moved along with party games like pass-the-parcel, moz-e-oke (Morrissey karaoke) and of course, cake.
A note for the non-Brit audience on pass-the-parcel: when you receive the gift box, unwrap, take the gift and pass the box along to the next party-goer for them to unwrap to the next layer and get the next present.
Lamé’s party quickly unravels once it’s clear Morrissey, who’s been invited to every show, will not be turning up.
‘It’s like a like a love letter to Morrissey, love in the true sense,’ Lamé told GSN.
‘Real love is never without criticism… this isn’t a blind love, it’s a real love.’
On how to best deal with matters of the heart, Unhappy Birthday’s director Scottee seriously suggests ‘separate duvets’. The avant-garde entertainer Scottee brings a balance to Lamé’s performance, helping her create a body of work that is simultaneously fringe and culturally accessible.
Lamé is a talk-show DJ in London but is best-loved as the hostess of Duckie – the original queer London alternative clubbing night where the most adventurous Brits go for dancing and random performance art.
Scottee’s own theater background began at the very People’s Theatre in Camden where Unhappy Birthday has currently sold out. Since the age of 14, Scottee has pushed the limits of his audience with events like Burger Queen 2012, a beauty contest/talent show/cook-off for fatties and performance art pieces at music festival Lovebox with pillow fights and vomiting paper.
He’s graced the pages of international publications, performed in some of the world’s most prestigious venues and ‘lost 100’s of pairs of high heels in his determination to please and challenge his audiences’.
This dynamic duo met at Duckie, a weekly Saturday-night event in South London’s Royal Vauxhall Tavern that dishes out ‘progressive working class entertainment’. Lamé knew a special relationship was born when she saw Scottee walk in with a black bin bag and a pint of milk he later started spewing about the crowd. The pair have been inseparable ever since.
So close is their bond that they are confused for siblings or husband and wife as they roam their favorite charity shops together. Sales attendants will ask Scottee where his wife is, when his ‘wife’ is in the dressing room trying on dresses that he could wear.
Lamé told GSN: ‘Scottee and I share the same politics, the same dress size, and the same hair dye’. So it only seems natural that Scottee agreed to help direct Lamé’s Unhappy Birthday play at her 40th birthday party where the pair was enjoying their drink of choice: a mixture of champagne and Amaretto cleverly dubbed Chamarettos.
Lamé complains about having the worst birthday of the year: 3 January when all her friends are three days in to desperately trying to cling to their New Year’s resolutions of not drinking and not eating. When asked about the best and worst birthday presents she’s received, Lamé told GSN that the best birthday present she’s received is a diamond ring from her girlfriend on her 40th birthday. The worst: a clown cake from her father at her eighth birthday. ‘Back when I was afraid of clowns, I’m not now, I just had to make a scene.’
Lamé has continued her scene-making antics into her adult years. The New Jersey, USA native continues to speak her mind as a contributor to homoLAB, a culture and current affairs podcast for ‘queers, friends and fans’. ‘Politics is very important to me,’ said Lamé. To hear what Lamé thinks about sleeping with Tories or Boris’s re-election, check out homoLAB’s website or you can listen to the podcasts on every Gay Star News page.
Though Unhappy Birthday has already sold out in London, the show is set to tour the UK throughout the summer, and US tour dates are to be confirmed. ‘I’m living the dream because I’m listening to my favorite records all the time, all day, all night,’ said Lamé. GSN asked the Unhappy Birthday couple what they thought about translating humor from the UK to the US.
The duo isn’t concerned. Apart from needing to explain pass-the-parcel to most Americans, they recognize that Morriseey is huge in America, and Americans understand fan-dom. Lamé, for one, is excitied to visit her country of birth as a UK citizen. She’s been living in London for the past 20 years. Prior to moving to London, all Lamé knew about the UK was what she learned from Morrissey and what her gran told her when she asked what they eat in England: ‘everything’s in pastry’.
How did the American handle the transition into London over two decades ago? ‘If you don’t have anything to lose, and you don’t have anything to go back to, you HAVE to make it work.’
And so with a chip on her shoulder and a smile on her face, Amy Lamé takes audiences down memory lane and into the experience likely every human fears the most: an unhappy birthday.
For more information on Unhappy Birthday, visit Amy Lamé’s website.
The UK tour dates are:
Manchester – 18, 19 May
Brighton – 31 May, 1 June
Birmingham – 8 June
Colchester 22 June
Norwich – 29 June
They will also be attending Edinburgh festival