Ken Campbell, Celebrating the Tradition of Vaudeville

Review in Issue 11-4 | Winter 1999

The Penguin Dictionary of Theatre defines vaudeville as: ‘More or less the American equivalent of British Music Hall; a series of turns, comic, musical, acrobatic etc., deriving from the rough, vulgar beer hall entertainments of the middle nineteenth century.’ Apart from some ventriloquism, what this rambling blend of gnosticism, physics, dogs and David Icke has to do with vaudeville is anybody’s guess. Still, if not acrobatic or musical, Campbell is constantly comic.

Ken Campbell is, of course, famous for his skills as a raconteur. In his apparently artless way, he indulges in a one-sided conversation with the audience. Anecdote tumbles upon anecdote; his flawed arguments – propped up with flawed logic – pummel common sense into submission. Soon his flights of fancy seem as probable as that day’s headlines. As Campbell pads around the stage, he maps out his thoughts. With each step the motion of thought is revealed. Hitching up his trousers, for instance, he remembers the untidiness of an Oxford don’s office floor. This keeps happening – each twitch and tic brings forth a fresh stream of reminiscence.

Campbell certainly leads his audience on an entertaining and esoteric journey. Yet it is difficult to escape the feeling that this does not lead anywhere, other than round in ever decreasing circles.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Oct 1999

This article in the magazine

Issue 11-4
p. 20