Steve Bugeja is a likeable Everyman of a storyteller. Harking on themes of teenage love, growth, unexpected friendship and adventure, he does his best to bring everyone along with him on his young journey to be a counsellor in one of the USA's many summer camps. It's 2009 again, and Steve is off to reinvent himself, engage with American youth, and make the most of his sexy English accent – all with the blithe optimism of a hopeful and inexperienced 18-year-old.
Yes, he may have been motivated by ambitions in romance, but his work at a camp for young teens with autism does involve teaching and learning and suchlike too. Each chapter of his tale is punctuated with a faux American voice-over, and another picture placed on his Round Lake Camp pinboard. The stage is neatly tied together with a Stars And Stripes flag across one side, and the camp's name spelt out in magnetic letters; the combination delivers up a low-tech backdrop, keeping us alongside the teenage Steve at every juncture.
Bugeja is socially awkward, he explains, although the confidence with which he casually interacts with a few audience members near the front exposes this as a past truth. He may have faltered as a teenager, but he found success as a student comic and has two full hour shows already under his belt. As much as he speaks as the underdog, that's not who he is now.
In itself, that's all right – people thankfully change from their teenage selves. And Bugeja's teenage self is delivered well, keeping a certain wide-eyed youthful naivety as he both struggles with and achieves friendship with his assigned 14-year-old camper. But when he comically lays into another English camp counsellor, the balance is slightly thrown. We witness a 26-year-old man let loose on the privilege and consequential confidence of this admittedly annoyingly alpha boy. The time lapse skips a bit.
This aside, Bugeja is an engaging and captivating storyteller. He fills in the details with quirky truths about a girl (and SpongeBob SquarePants), and he shares glimpses into different perspectives on the world as viewed through the eyes of the kids at the camp. It's gently enlightening without being teaching or preachy. This isn't a laugh-out-loud show, but it is a big smiler, with a few warm feelings to bring heart to your Fringe too.