|Born||Kenneth Victor Campbell
10 December 1941
|Died||31 August 2008
Kenneth Victor Campbell (10 December 1941 – 31 August 2008) was an English writer, actor, director and comedian known for his work in experimental theatre. He has been called "a one-man dynamo of British theatre."
Campbell achieved notoriety in the 1970s for his nine-hour adaptation of the science-fiction trilogy Illuminatus! and his 22-hour staging of Neil Oram's play cycle The Warp. The Guinness Book of Records listed the latter as the longest play in the world.
The Independent said that, "In the 1990s, through a series of sprawling monologues packed with arcane information and freakish speculations on the nature of reality, he became something approaching a grand old man of the fringe, though without ever discarding his inner enfant terrible." The Times labelled Campbell a one-man whirlwind of comic and surreal performance.
The Guardian, in a posthumous tribute, judged him to be "one of the most original and unclassifiable talents in the British theatre of the past half-century. A genius at producing shows on a shoestring and honing the improvisational capabilities of the actors who were brave enough to work with him."  The artistic director of the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse said, "He was the door through which many hundreds of kindred souls entered a madder, braver, brighter, funnier and more complex universe." 
Early life and career 
Campbell was born in Ilford, Essex, the son of Elsie (née Handley) and Anthony Colin Campbell, who was a telegrapher. He staged his first performances in the bathroom of his childhood home: "I was three years old and helped by my invisible friend, Peter Jelp, I put on shows for the characters in the linoleum." 
He was educated at Chigwell School (where he won the Drama prize) and then studied at RADA before joining Colchester Repertory theatre as an understudy to Warren Mitchell. In 1967 he became resident dramatist and acting company member at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent. He soon began writing and directing his own productions, including working with director Lindsay Anderson. After seeing the American Living Theatre at The Roundhouse in the early 1970s he was inspired to found The Ken Campbell Roadshow, a small theatre group that performed in unconventional venues such as pubs. Members included Bob Hoskins and Sylvester McCoy. Campbell was invited by John Cleese to appear with his Roadshow team in the first Secret Policeman's Ball in June 1979.
Theatre director and playwright 
In 1976, he and Chris Langham formed the Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool in order to stage Illuminatus, a nine-hour cycle of five plays by himself and Langham based on the cult trilogy of avowedly anarchist science fantasy novels of the same name by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. Starring Campbell and Langham themselves, the production featured Neil Cunningham, David Rappaport, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy and Campbell's future wife Prunella Gee. It later moved to the National Theatre, where it opened the new Cottesloe Theatre in 1977.
The Warp, based on the real life experiences and adventures of author Neil Oram, is a dizzying trek through the nether reaches of gurudom and tireless post-sixties mind-expansion, directed by Ken Campbell, and opened at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts in January 1979. It was spawned by the encounter between Oram and Campbell after Oram gave his acclaimed performance as raconteur at the ICA. Campbell commissioned the cycle of ten plays after hearing Oram. The cycle's inordinate length when (as was intended to be possible) it is played together, 22 hours, rendered the 9-hour Illuminatus! a mere bagatelle by comparison. For the first two weeks the performances were of one play per night, after which the impetus for a marathon performance, a real challenge to actors and audience, became irresistible. The success of this remarkable effort by all concerned led to three full marathon performances at the ICA. Five marathon performances followed at the Roundhouse in London in November 1979 also directed by Ken. Probably the most remarkable, and in terms of the ethos of the author and the work, the most attractive event in this episode was the five marathons that were performed, against the wishes of an army of local officialdom, during a squat of the Regent Theatre in Edinburgh during the Festival of 1979. The Scottish audiences were as enthusiastic as the London crowd. After one performance at Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, a further performance was given at Liverpool Everyman Theatre in a ten week run from 29 Sept – 6 December 1980. Cult status was established giving some credence to the publicity material - "The world may soon divide into those who have been through THE WARP and those who have not" More recently the cycle was revived in the 1990s in a production directed by Campbell's daughter Daisy.
In May 1979, again at the ICA, the company presented the first stage version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. One eye-popping aspect of the production was that for each set change the entire audience was wafted 1/2000th-of-an-inch above the floor aboard an industrial hovercraft. The cast cavorted on various ledges and platforms. The craft's carrying capacity meant that audiences were limited to a maximum of eighty each night. Langham was Arthur Dent, and narration of The Book was split between two usherettes. The problem of how to portray Zaphod Beeblebrox, the Betelgeusian blessed with three arms and two heads - not an issue in the original radio series - was assailed in typical Campbell fashion by simply (or not so simply) putting two actors inside one large costume.
Audience-carrying capacity was not a problem at London's vast Rainbow Theatre where Campbell mounted a yet more grandiose version of The Hitchhiker's Guide in July 1980. The venue had been renovated in the 1970s to take rock operas. Some reviewers, who in general did not greet the show favourably, labelled it a musical, since it now came with incidental music and audacious laser effects. It ran for over three hours and, despite attempts to shorten the script, was forced to close some four weeks early, in the process losing a lot of money.
For a year, 1980–1981, Campbell was artistic director of the Liverpool Everyman Theatre. From 1984, he made repeated efforts to adapt for the stage VALIS, the largely autobiographical cult science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick, but to the disappointment of fans, these efforts came to nothing.
Television, radio and film 
Campbell played Alex Gladwell, a corrupt lawyer, in one of the TV events of the 1970s, Law and Order, the notorious but ground-breaking corruption drama by G.F. Newman, a luminary of British TV screenwriting. The series provoked such a press outcry at the time that the BBC banned its overseas sale, since it was deemed to have portrayed Britain's police and criminal justice system in such a wholly unfavourable light.
He played Alf Garnett's neighbour Fred Johnson in the half-dozen series of the 1980s sitcom In Sickness and in Health, which had the effect of cementing his career-long friendship with Warren Mitchell. He was memorable in Jack Pulman's 1981 television series Private Schulz as the acerbic Herr Krauss, an underwear factory owner hoping the war would continue so as not to jeopardise his contracts with the German army.
Campbell in 1987 unsuccessfully auditioned for the part of the seventh doctor in Doctor Who. He was beaten to the role by his old protégé Sylvester McCoy. The then script editor, Andrew Cartmel, later revealed that Campbell's interpretation had been considered "too dark" to put on television. Other roles included that of the irritating Roger in The Anniversary episode of Fawlty Towers and the buck toothed antiques blackmailer Ted Goat in a 1993 episode of Lovejoy.
Campbell's radio career included playing Poodoo in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a part specifically written for him. The Radio 3 literary programme The Verb included Campbell as a regular contributor; in such spots as Campbell's Book Soup he became an upturner of bibliographic rocks, revealing unconsidered trifles to the hilarity of fellow contributors.
His film work included Ken Loach's Poor Cow, Derek Jarman's The Tempest (1979), Breaking Glass (1980), Chris Bernard's Letter to Brezhnev (1985), Peter Greenaway's A Zed and Two Noughts (1985), Charles Crichton's A Fish Called Wanda (1987), Saving Grace (2000) and Creep (2004).
In the final years of his life Campbell suddenly found himself cast in a whole new TV role: that of doggedly curious sceptic called upon to probe the outer realms of particle physics and cognitive science on behalf of the casual viewer, particularly where the science bordered on the paranormal. Campbell's idiosyncratic presentation in Brainspotting, Reality On the Rocks and Six Experiments that Changed the World, each made for Channel 4, owed much to the influence of one of his heroes, the American iconoclast Charles Fort. Campbell became a star turn at the annual Fortean Times convention, UnCon.
Later career and one-man shows 
From the late eighties onwards Campbell wrote and performed a series of one-man shows, each a mélange of autobiographical stand-up comedy, ontological speculation and popular-science rant. They include Recollections of a Furtive Nudist, Jamais Vu, Mystery Bruises and Pigspurt. Several were published by Methuen. He toured them worldwide. Three of them were performed together at the National Theatre in 1993, as The Bald Trilogy: Furtive Nudist, Jamais Vu and Pigspurt.
Campbell was later commissioned by the National's director Trevor Nunn to write The History of Comedy Part One: Ventriloquism. The two had previously fallen out when Nunn had been director of the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1981. Campbell had carefully concocted a press release and a string of personal letters complete with forged signature: Nunn appeared to be announcing that henceforth, as a consequence of the huge success of its recent adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby, the Royal Shakespeare Company would be changing its name to the Royal Dickens Company. Several grandees of the English theatre had been taken in by the hoax. Only when an exasperated Nunn called in Scotland Yard did Campbell finally own up.
In 2001 Campbell staged a version of Macbeth in pidgin English. It was the big gun in his campaign to get Bislama, first language of 6,000 inhabitants of the South Pacific islands of Vanuatu, formally adopted as a world language (wol wantok). The virtue of Bislama was that with a bit of determination you could pick it up in an afternoon. Campbell argued that, in certain respects, Macbeth in pidgin was better than the original. If nothing else, the campaign had the effect of bringing to a wider public the Bislama for Prince Philip: "Nambawan bigfala emi blong Misis Kwin" (Number one big fellow him belong Mrs Queen).
In July 2008 Staffordshire University awarded Campbell an honorary doctorate, labelling him one of Staffordshire's "greatest living success stories", a reference to his time as artist in residence in 1967 at Stoke-on-Trent's Victoria Theatre.
Personal life 
Campbell married the actress Prunella Gee in 1978, and they had a daughter, Daisy. They later divorced but remained close friends. Campbell lived in Loughton adjacent to Epping Forest in a nineteenth century Swiss chalet. His funeral, a woodland burial in Epping Forest, was attended by a distinguished roll of guests with whom he had worked in the theatre.
- 1972 - You See the Thing Is This: A One Act Comedy (ISBN 0-237-74966-1)
- 1972 - Old King Cole (ISBN 1-870259-12-2)
- 1975 - Skungpoomery (ISBN 0-413-67520-3)
- 1976 - Jack Sheppard (ISBN 0-333-19623-6)
- 1991 - Recollections of a Furtive Nudist (ISBN 1-871503-03-5)
- 1993 - Pigspurt: Or Six Pigs from Happiness (ISBN 0-413-68100-9)
- 1995 - The Bald Trilogy' (ISBN 0-413-69080-6) - a volume collecting together Furtive Nudist, Pigspurt and Jamais Vu
- 1996 - Violin time; or, the Lady from Montségur (ISBN 0-413-70960-4)
- 2000 - Wol Wantok (ISBN 1-84166-039-6) - a pidgin English version of Macbeth
- 2011 - Coveney, Michael, Ken Campbell: The Great Caper, Nick Hern Books, London (ISBN 978-1-84842-076-2)
- 2011 - Merrifield, Jeff, Seeker! Ken Campbell: His Five Amazing Lives, Playback Publications, Shetland (ISBN 978-0-9558905-4-3)
- Hanman, Natalie (2008-09-01). "Improv king Ken Campbell dies". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2008-09-01.
- Newfoundland newspaper, The Scope, 10 September 2008
- Ian Shuttleworth. "THE WARP: Introduction". Compulink.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-08-16.
- "World's longest play. Neil Oram The Warp". Thelongestlistofthelongeststuffatthelongestdomainnameatlonglast.com. Retrieved 2009-08-16.
- "Ken Campbell: Actor, writer and director famed for his epic plays and one-man shows - Obituaries, News". London: The Independent. 2008-09-03. Retrieved 2009-08-16.
- "Ken Campbell oneman whirlwind of comic and surreal performances". The Times (London). 2008-09-02. Retrieved 2010-05-07.
- Coveney, Michael (2008-09-01). "Obituary: Ken Campbell | Stage | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2009-08-16.
- "Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse Theatres - News". Everymanplayhouse.com. Retrieved 2009-08-16.
- "Ken Campbell Biography (1941-)". Filmreference.com. 1941-12-10. Retrieved 2009-08-16.
- "Ken Campbell". London: Telegraph. 2008-09-01. Retrieved 2009-08-16.
- Staff writer (July 2008). "Ken Campbell". Honorary Doctors. University of Staffordshire. Retrieved 2009-05-14.[dead link]
- Peter Hall, Diaries, 1983, p.284
- "Robert Anton Wilson 1: Ken Campbell intro". YouTube. 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2009-08-16.
- Staff writer (July 2008). "Staffs Uni Announces Honours List". University of Staffordshire. Retrieved 2009-05-14.
- Coveney, Michael (10 September 2008). "A fond farewell in Epping Forest". Whatsonstage.com. Retrieved 2009-10-13.
- Campbell on BBC Radio 3, on the Library of the Peculiar & Jeremy Beadle
- 1977 Fanatic special issue for Campbell's stage version of Illuminatus! and Fortean Times coverage
- Jeff Merrifield on putting Illuminatus! on stage
- Macbeth in pidgin English, 1998
- Background to The Warp and full script
- Recording of performance in Manchester of The Captain sequence from Pigspurt, December 1992
- Ken Campbell at the Internet Movie Database
- 2004 recording of Campbell on the origins of Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool
- Interview with James Nye, 1991
- Guardian interview, 2005
- Guardian interview about Campbell's work in theatrical improvisation, 2005
- Michael Billington, The Guardian, with tributes from friends and fans, 1 Sept 2008
- Michael Coveney, The Guardian, 1 Sept 2008
- The Daily Telegraph, 1 Sept 2008
- Ian Shuttleworth, The Financial Times, 3 Sept 2008
- Fortean Times, November 2008
- Mark Borkowski, Chortle, UK comedy website, 1 Sept 2008
- Thompson's Bank of Communicable Desire - includes audio on origin of the pidgin Macbeth & the One-Minute Warp
- Gemma Bodinetz, artistic director of the Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse
- What's on Stage tribute from Simon McBurney of Complicite
- The Fortean Institute
- The Independent, 3 Sept 2008
- The Times, 1 Sept 2008
- Liverpool Confidential
- Oblomovka Danny O'Brien
- BBC News
- BBC Radio 4's Last Word
- My Much-Missed Madcap Friend by Richard Eyre, The Guardian, October 11, 2009