Ken at The Bunker
Terry Johnson is back with Ken at The Bunker, honouring the legacy of the well-known “theatrical maverick” Ken Campbell, after a successful run at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs in 2016.
Through jokes and anecdotes, the Olivier and Tony Award-winning writer narrates the story of when he first met the theatre director in 1979 and how their relationship evolved after that. He defines Campbell as “the most influential man I ever met” and this adoration is perceived throughout the tribute.
Ken is a two-man show, interpreted by Terry Johnson, as himself, accompanied by Jeremy Stockwell as Ken. It’s hard to believe those eyebrows are not Campbell’s. Everything from his facial gestures to his goofy interpretation makes Stockwell win the performance – equally, when he plays other characters such as Maia or Angie. It’s humorously magnificent. Even if one has never heard of Ken Campbell they will come out from the show feeling like they know him, because Stockwell’s portrayal is just outstanding.
The production takes place in a cosy auditorium at The Bunker. This is not an everyday stage: filled with random furniture and lamps that don’t match, it evokes a sort of middle-eastern style meets the hippie 70s. Everything blends in tones of red, pink and orange, with an incense aroma in the air, making the experience ethereal. Theatregoers who get there early can choose to sit in one of the comfy couches or by the colourful Indian-style cushions.
Beware, the stage is the actors’ playground, so look forward to a tap on the shoulder, a bit of roadshow or the pleasure of taking part in a scene. Because one of the things that Johnson and Stockwell do best is surprise us with out-of-the-blue moments, and we wonder if they are real or whether they just made a mistake. The charm of this chiefly British play is that every show is unique due to its interactive nature and its bits of improvisation – the audience are going to share laughs and moments that won’t be repeated.
Although the script is based on real events, the performers don’t want us to take it too seriously. Johnson warns us from the beginning: “What I am going to tell you is not entirely true”. It is indeed one hell of a satire, filled with unexpected moments and, yet, an inspiring reflection.
As Campbell says at one point, “If you are curious, everything is possible”. Ken is an unpredictable show and the audience is definitely in for a night of kicks and laughs.
Photo: Robert Day
Ken is at The Bunker from 24th January until 24th February 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.