Review: Craig Campbell – Don’t Look Down

[First published on Quays News 28/05/16]

CRAIG CAMPBELL performed his show ‘Don’t Look Down’ at the Lowry in Salford last night. It’s the Canadian comic’s third tour and I went along…

Campbell, seemingly fresh from the Canadian wilderness sporting wild shoulder length hair and a grizzly beard, hit the Quays theatre, the 47-year-old as energetic as ever.

He starts the show from backstage by singing Jonny Cash, funny at first, but as the audience members exchanged glances, it was obvious it had gone on for too long. Campbell with his unique and, at times, bizarre delivery, struggled to warm up the Salford audience. Even his odd dress sense, complete with shoes displaying individual toes, couldn’t lift the room which contained a smattering of empty seats.

Momentum begins to build however, particularly with Campbell’s instantly relatable routine on his fondness of tea which received hearty laughter. Coffee is next on the menu, his anger at the closing time of British coffee shops is palpable. Next up is the pub where he shares his first experience of a boozer in Britain, an anecdote that highlights British characteristics.

His material isn’t ground breaking, but the simple observations and relatively ordinary anecdotes are brought to life by Campbell’s enthusiastic performance and some well-placed swear words. His routines are extremely physical, as he extravagantly acts out scenes from his stories. Facial expressions also add to the humour, his bearded jaw appearing detachable at times.

Throughout the show Campbell compares different cultures. An internationally renowned comedian, he’s met vastly contrasting people. Australians, Americans, Norwegians, Brits, Canadians and Russians all get their fair share of ridicule from Campbell, and at one point he concedes that he’s just a cultural bully.

Campbell also exercises his singing voice at various points throughout the show. A rendition of the gentle country swing of George Strait’s ‘All My Ex’s Live in Texas’ followed later in the show by Nazareth’s heavy rock song ‘Flight at Night’ are both given a whole hearted attempt, the latter bemusing the audience somewhat.

Campbell then breaks down the lyrics making several jokes which were well received by the audience after the crazed singing. A cheesy Canadian song by Tom Connors received the biggest laughs of the evening, the catchy tune probably playing as the soundtrack to the audience’s dreams that night, unable to get it out of their heads.

Campbell struggled interacting with the Salford audience for the majority of the show. Asking questions on numerous occasions, the crowd were reluctant to answer, acting cagey and digging in their heels. Perhaps this was due to Campbell’s scary lumberjack appearance, but it was more likely to be the lack of energy in the room which was a struggle to maintain, the laughter and interaction only coming in bursts.

The show is anything but slick, compromising of bits of material and improvisation dragged together. Little is mentioned of the title and there appears to be no flowing narrative. However, this is precisely Campbell’s character; order and structure wouldn’t sit comfortably in his act. His strength is outlandish performance, and he delivers this in spades.

3

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