Brighton Fringe 2018
Dr David Bramwell who knew Campbell from 1991, and Daisy Campbell curate this show. Daisy’s one-woman-show so entranced people it as if she’s succeeded Ken. Tonight we could just compare their different approaches for ourselves – as Ken’s back. The curators worked the videos screened from a Mac, and later dimming issues were managed. Look out for further Spiegeltent Oditorium events curated by Bramwell.
Those who experienced Pigspurt’s Daughter on Wednesday 16th at the same venue left the late great Ken Campbell after his daughter Daisy obtained permission to exhume his body from his Epping Forest grave. Partly this was about turning Ken into a brick in an esoteric pyramid scheme. A real pyramid. Then something happened. If you’re going to unearth Ken Campbell again the graveyard shift’s the only time to do it. So it’s fitting it’s one from nine pm to midnight, and just after.
You might have got this far and asked who? There’s the Guardian obituary, in 2008. ‘Ken Campbell was one of the most original and unclassifiable talents in British theatre of the past half-century.’ That helps. But not much. I could say read my previous review here:
But best just read on.
Dr David Bramwell who knew Campbell from 1991, and Daisy Campbell curate this show. Daisy’s one-woman-show so entranced people it as if she’s succeeded Ken (I’ll drop Campbell here). Tonight we could just compare their different approaches for ourselves – as Ken’s back. The curators worked the videos screened from a Mac, and later dimming issues were managed.
It’s video footage. First Bramwell and Daisy introduce the hour-long collage of videos from Ken’s 1968 appearance with Johnny Speight on the Dusty Springfield Show producing eggs out of hats, and a sequence of commentaries on Ken’s work in and the nine-hour and twenty-two-hour record breaking plays based on material by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson (The Illuminatus!) and latterly Neil Oram’s The Warp. That was written for Ken and he’s the co-author as well as auteur-in-chief. There were interviews with
Ken talked of he moribund imaginations his own work tries to challenge, whether in audience or performer, or writer. There’s quite a bit more of this in Terry Johnson’s superb Ken, starring Jeremy Stockwell as Ken and Johnson as himself, last seen at the Bunker in February-March.
A Q&A elicited from this writer a query round one of Johnson’s anecdotes: the statistical survival rate of Royal Court writers subjected in Ken’s masterclass to… Maus. She was the German action artist who with a funnel inserted in her rectum proceeded to spray seated writers with milk. ‘She could insert eggs into her fanny’ Daisy helpfully amplified. Another audience member later asked about written material (if I recall aright).
There’s three monologues by Ken. The Furtive Nudist, Pigspurt, and Jamais Vue. The first and last were available to us. We were asked to vote on two. The Furtive Nudist won. After a nine-minute break we began at 22.00.
The Furtive Nudist begins and ends with Ken seemingly force dint a moral dilemma where clothes need shedding. Visiting his widowed and remarried father in Norfolk, hiding his clothes under a sand-dune tussock and escaping is echoed much alter with different results. It’s clear Daisy’s own circular narratives are homages of a kind; but she compresses storytelling into a tighter narrative though both take two hours with an interval. Ken’s takes involve a different speech-rhythm, abrupt, with sudden spurts as it were from the narrational tone, and an altogether more diffuse, if intensely atmospheric storytelling.
The narrative as ever starts with potty training with imagined entities on the abstract linoleum, and a deserted overgrown swimming pool complex now pushes its way into Ken’s nascent imagination. There’s also a mythic Native American woman imagined after he found he and other boys disturbed a foreigner and pissed on the luckless man’s writings claiming he was a German. His erotically detailed drawing doesn’t survive but is etched on Ken’s memory; and of course Ken’s on a mission to amongst other things find the original. By the end of the barmy, balmy narrative Emma, the avatar has trepanned her head with a drill. It’s on the Phrenological bump of hope, not too bad. It’s just she then went in with a bent coat hangar.
That’s two strands. This film which had projection issues Ken would have delighted in isn’t generally available, but Daisy and Bramwell are working together with others to make all Ken’s legacy available in hi definition, free.
Ken at least is a creator who either makes you run or seizes hold of you and won’t let go. Most theatre makers of whatever stripe are pretty clear Ken’s a game changer.
It’s a world and language that Bramwell and Daisy inhabit – Bramwell’s famed for his series of Ken-like narratives, songs and presentations not to mentions curatorships. The Odditorium’s one of the latest and other events run here too. Daisy’s own disjecta brilliance suggests that one day someone replying to a question about Campbell the theatrical genius will ask back: ‘Who, Ken or Daisy?’