Ken Campbell, If I ruled the National Theatre

Review in Issue 13-4 | Winter 2001

Looking for a successor to Trevor Nunn as artistic director, the National Theatre canvassed the interest of many people for the job, including the inimitable Ken Campbell. This show took the form of a lecture demonstration – created over a week-long residency at the ICA at which anyone who wished to was encouraged to turn up and contribute to the piece being prepared for public performance. Campbell tells the story of his invitation, sharing his vision for the theatre’s future, in which, despite the grimness of the building, it might actually become popular.

Amongst his innumerable proposals were Sunday evenings with Ken Dodd in the Olivier, filling the theatre with audiences there to enjoy themselves, a return to traditional rep in the Lyttleton, reviving forgotten plays in productions animated by the actor’s craft (stimulated by a good dose of Keith Johnstone) rather than complex scenography or director’s concepts, and a brand new musical, based on Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, starring a chorus of performing dogs.

What Campbell proposes – in a show that is itself a one-man example – is a revival of the National Theatre based on stage-craft, engaging new audiences not so much by policies formulated behind the closed doors of artistic directors’ offices as by performances in the open space of the stage.

At the end of the week came the public announcement from the National Theatre. Their new artistic director would be… Nicholas Hytner.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Oct 2001

This article in the magazine

Issue 13-4
p. 27