Over the last few weeks, I have been doing some camp wrestling. I know what you’re thinking: all wrestling is pretty camp, Ed.
Yes, you’re right. It’s acting, darlings. SHOWBIZ! Entertainment always: panto at a push. What I am referring to, however, is wrestling FOR camps. Summer camps.
It’s great for many reasons, but here are a few of my favourites:
Do It For the Kids
Lucha Britannia is my favourite wrestling haunt. We do underground cabaret: fighting, fire breathing, burlesque and dark comedy. It’s 18+ and for many good reasons. Boobies being one (or two) of those reasons.
Camp shows, by contrast, are mainly populated by kids. A harder audience in many respects – because they are quick to lose interest and even quicker to disbelieve. They also have a much looser concept of good guys and bad guys and, frankly, will cheer for whoever they like if you give them half a chance.
Of course, there are also the parents – but they are an easier crowd. They know the deal – they get it. They’ll clap along as long as the kids are amused, so if you can entertain the adults as well, they’re double happy.
Camp shows go by old school British wrestling rules: five rounds of five minutes; first to three falls wins. For one thing, this means we could very well be out there for half an hour, or longer – which is never easy.
For another thing, it creates a very different match dynamic to the modern ‘first fall win’s approach. It’s a different type of story telling and it takes a little while to get used to.
On the plus side, it also allows for easier crowd interaction and improvisation, because you can plan for individual rounds rather than an entire match – with clear, distinct time markers. (Unless somebody loses track of time and forgets to end Round One for ten minutes…which isn’t unheard of…)
If anything goes wrong, you can just make it to the end of the round and resettle yourself.
Well…Well It’s the Small Show!
(That was a Big Show joke. Did you get it? No? Drats.)
Camp shows can’t guarantee a huge audience, so they might put a show together using only four performers. Two in match one; two in match two; and all four in match three.
When I discovered this, I was shocked – but it makes sense. Kids don’t need lots of different characters in a single evening. Far better to perform as the same character twice: they already know who you are, so they already know how to react and you can get on with putting on a show, perhaps with more subtlety to your story-telling because they already know the type of thing your character would do.
If they already hated you by the end of the first match, they’ll LOATHE you when you come back out later – and they’ll scream their support for the guy beating you up. It’s a doddle – and a huge amount of fun.
It’s also a great feeling putting on a whole show between the four of you.
Less Is Genuinely More!
Camp shows involve a very different type of wrestling. Kids don’t understand which moves hurt and which ones don’t, and they can’t spot a bodged landing so they have no sympathy and don’t react like adults.
As long as you work your character, kids are just as happy watching a series of exaggerated punches or a simple leg lock, as they are watching a split-legged double corkscrew moonsault. They don’t understand what makes a move impressive, but they are very impressionable: it’s less about doing impressive things and more about telling them that what you are doing is impressive.
That sounds like a blessing, but it also has its downsides. If you’re used to performing for adults, you arrange the high spots of your match accordingly, and it is confusing when they don’t get the reaction you’ve come to expect. It’s also very hard to predict: backflip off the ropes and they won’t say a thing; stand on the other guy’s head and they’ll start a riot!
Camp shows teach you the art of doing less. Much less.
Welcome to the Family
Finally, possibly the greatest thing about the camps shows is the feeling that comes from working together in such an intense and unique environment. Being with the same handful of guys doing a run of shows, night in and night out. I didn’t get to do half as many shows as I wanted to do, but I already grew very attached to the guys I was working with and for. It reminds me of how I wish wrestling was all the time: with everybody out to support and help each other.
I’d highly recommend everybody do some camp shows. You learn an awful lot and it’s huge fun – I can’t wait to go back.