Ro Campbell: You take the High Ro, I’ll take the Low Ro.
Ro Campbell @ Austral Hotel – Red Room
11:15pm, Fri 14 Feb 2014
The Red Room is stinking hot… really, awfully, oppressively hot. Windows are open to promote a bit of air circulation, but they also let the noise of the opening night Rundle Street rabble in. Of course, some of the rabble is in the room, too – most notably a drunken Kiwi lass who engages with Campbell almost as soon as he starts his set.
And the start is a bit rough; in addition to the bleed from outside, the sound inside the Red Room is awful – boomy and muffled, I was thankful to be sitting close enough to be able to hear Campbell’s un-amplified voice. And, after a few teething jokes, he asks the audience who’d already seen some Fringe shows (someone proudly claimed it was their third show already!), and then checked if anyone in the crowd had seen him perform before… his eyes lit up when he saw my raised hand: “Hey, it’s the Festival Freak!”
It’s obvious that Campbell has a wealth of material to draw on, tailoring his performance to the mood of the show; for this performance, he mainly drew his travels around the world, and his many stories of shows in weird locations – prisons, mining camps – draw the biggest laughs. His priceless description of Aberdeen (where pole dancers go to
die work for another sixty years) was an incidental quip surrounding the running joke that, after ten years living in the UK, he misses the cold (which included a biographical odyssey through the Shetland Islands).
The show climaxed as he talked about tracing his family history as part of a BBC documentary, to discover that his great-great-great-grandmother was sent as a convict from Scotland to Australia. Digging back, he discovers that she had been incarcerated in a prison in Perth, so he organises a comedy show there… hilarity (dangerous hilarity) ensues.
What I love most about Campbell is his ability to generate an incredibly filthy story from seemingly nowhere; a story that ascends to thrilling personal danger may suddenly devolve into a drag-crazed rimming orgy, and it all seems to make sense. Sure, his crowd work could have kept the annoying Kiwi in the front row a little quieter, and the sound could have been a
little lot clearer, and the Red Room could have been a little more comfortable, but it was still a great show that makes me utterly chuffed that Ro Campbell’s filthy mouth is back in Adelaide.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) February 15, 2014