PASSED/FAILED: Ken Campbell

Interview by Jonathan Sale

Ken Campbell, 56, is a one-man performer, writer, actor and the presenter of the recent Channel 4 series Brainspotting. His paranoid fantasy Illuminatus was the Cottesloe Theatre's first production; other National Theatre scripts are published in The Bald Trilogy and Violin Time.

Primary Qualities? I was kind of third in most things, but not at running because I was rather fat.

11-plus? I got it. There was a shortage of state schools in my part of Essex, so although Chigwell was a public school, you could 11-plus in as a day boy; you had to take its special exam as well.

O-levels? Latin, French, German, Maths, two English and the Bible - RI. I was hopeless at science; the guy who taught it couldn't communicate with anyone who didn't already know a bit about it.

A-levels? I did my A-levels in English, French and German in a year. I wasn't obsessive or anal about it: I wasn't aiming to do all that well, just get them. A considerable amount of the marks went on the essay in French and German, and in the list of subjects which they gave there was always something about the countryside, or mountains. I wrote the same essay in each subject, which was based on the terrific article - translated into French, German, Flemish and so on - in the International Youth Hostel Handbook on the joys of putting a rucksack on your back. I didn't actually learn it by heart but it had all the phrases.

17-plus? I left and went to RADA; you had to say you were 18. I got in on my audition of a speech from Twelve Angry Men. It was a two-year course.

Glittering prizes? The Evening Standard Award for Jamais Vu, my one-man show about the tribe on Vanuatu in the South Pacific who wear penis-wrappers and worship the Duke of Edinburgh. It was a writer's award, for Best Comedy. It also had two nominations for the Olivier Award. I had a Time Out award for Pigspurt - Six Pigs for Happiness, just for being the best university.

Record Breaker? The Warp by Neil Oram, which I directed, was in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest play ever. It was basically 10 full-length plays with intervals and lasted 24 hours. The dowager Duchess of Argyll came three times and asked the cast to stay at her castle. The audience actually increased during the night as people rang up their mates and said, "You've got to get over here." So did the musicians, as players came over to join in after they had finished their gigs. We started with a jazz quartet and ended up like Duke Ellington.

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