I’m not sure why Cameryn Moore isn’t more famous than she is. Aside from hosting a constantly-rotating circuit of smutty open mics across the country, she also tours with several brilliant one-woman shows, sells books, and occasionally pitches up on the pavement to write personalised erotica for passersby on an antique typewriter. She is unquestionably brilliant, and yet when I went to see her latest show Nerdfucker at the Edinburgh Fringe in August this year I was one of only about five people in the audience. Which is crazy, because it was one of the best things I saw in my entire three-week stint at the festival.
Perhaps the somewhat-vague flyer is to blame. Reading the hand-wavy copy off the back doesn’t really give you any idea of what to expect when you pick up a ticket. There’s a picture of Cameryn herself with a chessboard tattooed on her back, shrugging out of a fluffy-white dressing gown. There are some dim intimations that it’s a play about sex and relationships. But nothing, however, that even hints at the real brilliance of Nerdfucker… or indeed, any of her shows.
To that end, here’s a brief sketch of the premise: Cameryn plays a woman who is about to facilitate a game of chess. In fact, she’s going to be the board. Naked and on all fours in front of a massed audience, she’ll be the table over which two brilliant chess players meet and match wits. But with just an hour to go until the tournament commences, she’s having doubts. Does she really want to go through with this? And is it just the players who are using her?
If the concept sounds a little odd, that’s because it is. Nerdfucker is a slow starter – in fact it basically sets aside the first ten minutes to spell out the general premise and sketch in the world of the show. It feels awkward – like it’s taking time to get warmed up. But stick with it. Once it gets going it’s gripping stuff. Cameryn spends most of the forty-five minutes talking directly to the audience – who are, ostensibly, early arrivals for the chess spectacle. Occasionally she breaks for a phone call or an aside, but these are rare intermissions, and overall it’s an intimate and fairly intense one-woman show.
The only other show I’ve seen by Cameryn was Phone Whore, and while it left quite an impression on me, it would be wrong to say that I unequivocally enjoyed it. Both shows were thrilling to watch, and at times made me laugh, and all that good stuff… but they also thickened the air. They made me feel tension and discomfort. They made me empathise with characters who were not just flawed, but pinioned by difficult situations and choices. And what is more, it made me feel awkward knowingly, with intent.
The metaphor of a piece of human furniture is magnified throughout the performance, so that by the end the unnamed speaker is asking questions not just about the utility of touching and being touched by chess idols, but also about objectification and the toll taken by an unequal relationship. There’s a particular scene in which she soliloquises about a threesome she never really wanted to have in painful detail… but perhaps it’s painful largely because it is so relatable, so recognisable, so entirely human.
One of my favourite moments from Nerdfucker is when the narrator talks about her love for geeks. That is, her love for people who are carried away by their passion for something. People in whom you can see the light of enthusiasm when they speak. That such a short play can contain both this moment of positivity and beauty, and still confront the problematic issues that it does is a testament to its variety, and to Cameryn’s ability as a storyteller. You should go and see it. And you should be excited about it.
You may still be able to catch a performance of Nerdfucker at a fringe festival near you. Check out Cameryn’s website for her tour dates, as well as details of her other shows.