Having grown up repeatedly watching her father Ken Campbell’s one-man shows, Daisy Campbell is now marking the 10 year anniversary of her dad’s death with a Campbellian monologue of her own. Tom Preson was at the Hampstead Theatre Downstairs for Miro Magazine.

It’s a brave creative choice to stage a one-woman show about your father, especially when he was the larger-than-life theatre maverick Ken Campbell. But that’s exactly what Daisy Campbell, his daughter, has done. In this lengthy but engaging monologue, she ponders her father’s legacy and her own quest in finding her identity in a world that has now moved on a decade without him. Behind her is a jumbled collage of Ken Campbell memorabilia – pictures, props, newspaper clippings, books – that look as if his memory has taken over her dressing room. The centerpiece is a large black and white close-up of his nose and eyes and a half-mad leer, from the Pigspurt playtext, which tells us everything: Ken loomed so large in Daisy’s life (and I’d say in many of my fellow seekers’ – what Campbell called audiences) that he was both a gift and a burden. He was a loving, playful father, but also one to quickly point out her failures.

Daisy Campbell in Pigspurt’s Daughter

At one clever point she recalls telling her uncertain friends she’s considering writing a show about her dad. But, however much she uses her father’s philosophical ramblings and witty observations, Daisy has made the smart choice of making the story about her. For the show to revolve around him this might resemble a eulogy. In some ways, she is following in his footsteps. They are both fascinated with the nature of storytelling, and a course with screenwriting guru Robert McKee when Daisy was a child becomes the framework with which she navigates her search for the Self, as Ken was obsessed with. What is Self? An unidentifiable, but undeniable, human trait that eludes scientific detection, Ken has said in his ontological monologues. For Daisy, I think, it is a quest for closure, but not because she is devastated, or traumatized. She just feels she needs to. The reason might be down to the Self.

Sadly, too often the momentum buckles under the autobiographical nature of the show. Vital points are lost in meandering anecdotes about her and Ken’s experiences which certainly add flavor to the world Daisy is trying to build for us, but firmer editing would be beneficial. The lopsided, intriguing set serves as an indicator in one emotional scene of the colossal collection of manuscripts, books and belongings her father left her when he died; the weight of his legacy and her loss. Thereafter it is disappointingly underused.  The energy picks up again when she invokes Pigspurt, her father’s alter ego from the original one man show, to aid her in her search of the Self. In Robert McKee’s terms, Pigspurt has had enough of the setup of a story, and far more concerned with the payoff.

Under all the yarns and sketches, Daisy is paying warm tribute to her father while simultaneously stepping out from his shadow. Ignore the groans of nostalgic laughter from the audience, and we see a confident and able storyteller in front of us.

 

★★★☆☆

Pigspurt’s Daughter runs at the Hampstead Theatre until 14 July. For more information and tickets, visit the website here.