James Campbell - Keep Away From Children

Note: This review is from 2003

Review by Steve Bennett

James Campbell is possibly unique as a comic - in that he performs most of his stand-up to children, with 988 primary schools under his belt.

No wonder, then, that he felt the need to let off steam and play to an adult audience. He booked the room and planned a darker performance where he could let rip, vent his spleen and unleash all those pent-up feelings.

Problem is that in the meantime he has signed a contract to bring a sketch and stand-up show to children's TV. And part of the deal is that he cannot swear or tackle adult themes on stage at any time, to protect his new family-friendly image. "I've sold out, basically," he admits.

So this isn't the show he planned, but a grown-ups show where children are welcome, which obviously stripped it of a lot of its edge.

For adults, it does sometimes feel like you're in the wrong room - especially if you find yourself sat next to an under-ten. When an early gambit is to ask what hand gestures you used for the song The Wheels On The Bus, it feels like we should be sat cross-legged in a semi-circle on the floor. Putting the assembly into the Assembly Rooms.

His material hasn't lost all its impact, though, as he makes the most of the newly imposed conditions. Some of the funniest moments come as he hints at swearing or sexual innuendo without ever approaching the taste and decency danger zones.

Mostly, he appeals across the board. Stories of being kicked out of one of the schools, and the feverishly bureaucratic teachers he encounters can easily be enjoyed on both levels.

Shaggy-haired Campbell employs a playfully friendly, but laid-back style - turning on the high-energy sparsely, but effectively, when required and he does prove an endearing presence.

The slightly cutesy show does have its moments, but adults may be left slightly disappointed. However, it's a reliably entertaining early-evening warm-up - especially if you can't get a babysitter.

Review date: 1 Jan 2003
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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