The unlikely lad

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The Independent Culture
A MAN in a bowler hat and a brightly striped jumper pushes a shopping trolley onto the stage at the London Comedy Festival. His name is Ken Campbell, and he looks like Pablo Picasso with Denis Healey's eyebrows. Campbell's beguiling and hilarious MysteryBruises begins with a tape recording of some useful advice on using "hub-caps which have disenfranchised themselves from their vehicles" to pick up extra-terrestrial transmissions, and goes on from there. There's a detailed examination of the key role of Angus in Macbeth, an in-depth study of the saucy heretical practices of the Cathar cult, some irresponsible behaviour with pressurised containers, and - oh yes, don't forget this bit - the secrets of the multiverse are unveiled.

Once, Campbell was a straight actor (most familiar as Alf Garnett's neighbour in Till Death Us Do Part), but his days on the stage were numbered when an angel visited him during a production of Ben Jonson's The Alchemist and told him theatre work was no longer a possibility for him, "but small parts in TV and films are all right". Now he creates one-man shows in a tent pitched on the outer fringes of the fabulous.

Ken Campbell's generosity in entertaining notions which less imaginative mortals might re- gard as outlandish should not be mistaken for credulity. It is rooted in a canny scepticism about the ways of the world: "If you have the courage," he proclaims, metallic eyes glinting, "everything is unlikely."

The individual ingredients in one of his nutritious monologues are tasty enough, but he mixes them together with breathtaking skill and a delightful sense of mischief. All those who regard themselves as storytellers, from Peter Ustinov to Robert Newman, should bring him tribute of crisps and candied yams.

`Ken Campbellathon': Cockpit, NW8, 071-402 5081, Mon-Fri.

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