Ada Campe is undoubtedly a one-off.
Ada Campe and the Psychic Duck, The Stand’s New Town Theatre * * * *
With a spectacularly peacocky headpiece atop flowing garments, a deeply mellifluous, over-enunciated voice and a demeanour of barely contained mischief, she could pass at a pinch for a slightly bibulous Edwardian spiritualist or rambunctious Wodehousian aunt. In fact, she’s a marvellous teller of tall tales, purveyor of puns and occasional conjurer, in roughly that order. This show shows off those skills to a tee.
Immediately commanding the stage with her charming sense of naughtiness and wide, darting eyes, Campe frames things with a skip down memory lane. She takes us back to teenage summers spent working in a fairground, balancing tedious duties with holiday romances and dressing as items of fruit. One night, however, she stumbled upon a Madame Canard’s magical woodland circus, an Angela Carter-esque enclave of faintly feminist fantasy populated by enough fascinating women to inspire anyone with a beating heart to forsake the mundanity of daily life. What came next – involving ping-pong balls, magic books and a quack or two – is then revealed…
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This is a magic show of sorts, with a number of pleasing tricks. But the real appeal lies in Campe’s magnetic presence and ticklish way with words. She seems silly yet wise and has a lovely turn of phrase, incorporating oddball verbiage (“esoteric waterfowl”) and a smattering of smut. Her marshalling of audience volunteers is confident, kind and increasingly bizarre, and the peculiar worldmaking of her tales makes for a truly transporting hour. After an utterly bonkers finale, you leave with your head buzzing with visions of an enchanted and empowering world just beyond this time and place. You can also catch Campe every night as one of the regular acts at Mat Ricardo’s Varieties, a terrific variety night created by the brilliant juggler and showman.
Until 25 August