Right of Reply: Ken Campbell responds to the reviews of his latest one-man show, Jamais Vu, at the National Theatre

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The Independent Culture
'Nowhere near as fine or funny as its precursors . . . The impossible story turns on a notice outside the hut of Chief Jack Naiva of Tanna in the South Pacific: 'We believe that Prince Pilip (sic) is originally of Tanna and we want him to return home'.' Andrew St George, Financial Times

' 'I'm not mad,' he assures us, 'I've just read different books' . . .Like Disraeli, Mr Campbell suggests that the characteristic of the age is a craving credulity.' Michael Billington, Guardian

'Is anybody in the theatre more authentically odd . . ? We are not to call him mad, he says, because it upsets his daughter . . . . Very well. Let's agree to call him an Ancient Mariner who collects paranoid tales from other Ancient Mariners. He begins by describing how his obsession with John Birt led him to a loony bin in Hounslow. There, a man who thinks he is the real Birt told him how television was modifying our oculo-endocrine systems . . . Perhaps I am influenced by Campbell's bribe (a pair of Australian 'computer' socks was given to each critic) but I don't think there is a more anarchic talent on the loose in the British theatre.' Benedict Nightingale, Times

I CAN'T carp about any of these reviews, they're great. But it's interesting how the show's been misunderstood. Why people should call the story 'impossible' is beyond me. I went to the South Pacific, I saw the notice, I met the man. And that a disturbed schizophrenic should think he's John Birt is eminently possible.

People also assumed I'm anti-Establishment, quoting the opening salvoes and assuming they're my views. But it's the media establishment that's anti-Royal and anti-Birt, so that's how I start; it's the old comedian's ploy of initially bolstering other people's prejudices. In fact I become a worshipper of Prince Pilip and a Birt fan.

I'm very pleased Michael Billington mentions the bit about reading different books, because that's a central theme. And I'm thrilled that Benedict Nightingale mentioned the computer socks. They're like the ever-sharp razor or the car that runs on goat-shit, all those great inventions. He's right, I'm the Ancient Mariner, not Coleridge. He's also picked up on the things which I think perhaps are issues worthy of investigation. I see these shows as like a bus tour to the Taj Mahal, where everyone on the bus decides to get pissed instead. Nightingale fought his way through the lout behaviour and had a look at the view.

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