Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
Craig Campbell is described as a storyteller rather than a comedian. Eventually in his new show, Don’t Look Down, he gets around to telling some tales but by then it’s getting very late and some people are running for buses and others struggling to shake off apathy and take an interest. Others, however, are full of vigour and laughing like drains so maybe Campbell is a better judge of his audience than one imagines.
The opening Act of Don’t Look Down is ramshackle observational comedy but performed in a manner that is likely to generate puzzlement as much as recognition. Campbell adopts the persona of a fish out of water. A Canadian living in Britain he describes the characteristics of our culture that he finds endearing and baffling. These include such stereotypical features as an obsession with tea and denying entry to shops on the grounds that they will be closing but have not yet done so. Other aspects of our character – a willingness to talk to strangers when witnessing remarkable events- are not those commonly associated with a culture famous for being reserved.
Campbell’s style of delivery is not so much aggressive as loud and overbearing. His vocals go from a folksy mumble to a roar with no middle ground. Everything is done to the maximum. Sometimes this works well – the wild exaggeration of racial characteristics (Canadians are so welcoming they will literally move out of their home to accommodate unexpected guests) mitigates any offence at stereotyping. However, Campbell’s approach is exhausting – when he references a song he does not simply sing a chorus but enacts the whole thing. It is an impressive routine but wears thin the third time it is performed.
The material is daringly near the knuckle with Campbell remarking that he returned home to give his dad one last swim and see if his teeth reached the bottom of the water before his body. Eventually, in the second Act, stories begin to emerge. These are wonderfully exaggerated to the point of being surreal with Campbell’s efforts to find a bed for the night during a major sporting event becoming an epic journey. As with much of the show, however, there is a lack of focus and Campbell does not bring one story to a satisfactory climax before launching into the next.
Campbell is a generous performer and the show is of epic length but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that a more disciplined approach would have given a better show and that less might have been more satisfying.
Reviewed on 27May2016 | Image: Contributed