KEN: ★★★★ FROM THE TIMES

Posted on 30 January 2018. By: Dominic Maxwell

Posted in: Announcements

KEN: ★★★★ FROM THE TIMES

'The writer-director Terry Johnson recalls his misadventures with the provocateur Ken Campbell in a quirky but captivating two-hander'

DOMINIC MAXWELL, THE TIMES

'This suitably quirky but captivating two-hander in which another theatrical writer-director, Terry Johnson (Hysteria, Dead Funny), takes us through his own early misadventures with this extravagantly eyebrowed, esoteric energiser.'

'Johnson is a reticent stage presence. In fact, he tells us, he hasn’t acted since playing one of Zaphod Beeblebrox’s two heads in Campbell’s disastrous stage production of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in 1980. Yet everything about Campbell called for a shedding of the conventional. The pair first met when Campbell rang Johnson’s flat in the late 1970s asking for his flatmate. The flatmate was out, so instead Johnson was dragooned into replacing Jim Broadbent in the cast of Campbell’s 22-hour production The Warp. Johnson tells us about having his suburban mind blown as he is inducted into this boho-freaknik ensemble, where cast members debate whether or not to do sex scenes for real, where Campbell emerges as an adorably abrasive hater of the humdrum.'

'All of which might make Lisa Spirling’s production a neat enough requiem cum extended theatrical anecdote were it not for the brilliance of Jeremy Stockwell as Campbell. Mimicking precisely his emphatic, adenoidal relish for language, interacting with the playwright as he strolls through every part of this auditorium — which the designer Tim Shortall has rendered into a Seventies den of thick orange carpet and G Plan furniture, rugs and lampshades — he exhumes this charisma merchant with uncanny skill. He ad-libs with the same rollercoaster relish too. Ken rides again.'

'And Johnson moves astutely from the comical to the tender as he talks about Campbell’s unexpected death in 2008 and shows how he opened doors in people’s heads.'

'This is a paean to a spirit of adventure, of amateurism, of theatre as a place for careering from one idea to another, instead of theatre as a place for careerism. It’s a small show, but a lovely one.'

To read the full review click here to visit The Times online.

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