An Amusing Tribute To Maverick Ken Campbell

Ken, The Bunker ★★★☆☆

Neil Dowden
By Neil Dowden Last edited 16 months ago

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An Amusing Tribute To Maverick Ken Campbell Ken, The Bunker 3
Courtesy of Robert Day

Award-winning playwright/director Terry Johnson takes to the stage himself in an entertaining account of his friendship with Ken Campbell, who died ten years ago. The maverick and eclectic Campbell, well known for his surreal sense of humour and penchant for practical jokes, was a big influence on Johnson’s early career (as well as that of actors such as Bob Hoskins, Sylvester McCoy, Jim Broadbent and Bill Nighy). The countercultural Campbell devised experimental marathon shows as well as quirky one-man performances that used a lot of improvisation.

Courtesy of Robert Day

First seen at Hampstead Theatre in 2016, this show (like Campbell himself) is not easy to classify, being more of an anecdotal tribute than a fully-fledged play. It includes Johnson’s hilarious reminiscences of taking part in Campbell’s 24-hour production of the psychedelic odyssey The Warp in a disused cinema at the Edinburgh Festival and a disastrously overinflated version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at the Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park.

Courtesy of Robert Day

Before this show (directed by Lisa Spirling), Johnson had not acted for over 30 years, but he is only playing himself and rather disappointingly reads his affectionately amusing script from a lectern a lot of the time. It really comes to life with a star turn from Jeremy Stockwell (who also worked with Campbell), giving a “terrific” impersonation of Ken. He ad libs and interacts with the audience while roaming restlessly around the auditorium, which is fittingly furnished by Tim Shortall as a hippyish hang-out.

Ken, The Bunker, 53a Southwark Street, SE1 1RU. Until 24 February 2018. Tickets £10–19.30.

Last Updated 30 January 2018