Grace Campbell: Why I'm Never Going Into Politics | Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett
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Grace Campbell: Why I'm Never Going Into Politics

Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett

Most comedians with famous parents tend to keep quiet about the fact, as they try to make it on their own terms. But not Grace Campbell – and her dad was one of the chief architects of an illegal war, a fact you might want to hush up.

Instead, she has hooked her Edinburgh debut entirely on the fact she’s the daughter of Tony Blair’s spin doctor Alistair Campbell, the man behind the infamous dodgy dossier. It’s a family link that draws her an older crowd, no doubt political creatures keen to hear about the machinations of New Labour’s inner circle.

Then she opens with a ‘fanny fart’ joke. Not what they were expecting.

Quite a bit of her debut is about her vagina, drugs and getting wrecked – the usual metier of a new young comic. But it sits uneasily next to more personal material about an upbringing  so close to the seat of power. 

Citing the fact that her reckless youth may come back to haunt her as a reason she would never enter the formal world of politics is an attempt to reconcile the two halves of the show, as well as blaming the environment she grew up in for her wilder side. Dad certainly was often absent. ‘From birth, I’ve been competing with other people for my father’s attention,’ she says. ‘Specifically, Tony Blair.’

At 25, she’s grown up a bit now, and emerges on to the comedy stage as a confident, sometimes too full-on, speaker with some nicely-phrased jokes, but an inconsistent package for an hour.

Political gossip is the strongest strand. Anecdotes include the time she tried to stop her pugnacious father getting into a fistfight (not with Tories but the real enemy – Corbynistas); revealing what Boris Johnson said to Miley Cyrus when he met her at a gig; and how David Miliband’s puss-riddled eye led to Brexit. That last one’s a slightly taller tale than the rest.

Tagged on the end of the show is a rather pat section on feminism, which elicits a Question-Time-style smattering of the polite applause of agreement. Campbell might not be setting her sights Westminster,   but is turning to grassroots activism to change the world. 

Within this earnest but glib section, she makes a great point about the fact she is not only the daughter of Alistair Campbell but also of Fiona Millar, the brilliant political adviser who helped put education at the heart of New Labour policy and who vehemently opposed the Iraq war - and who has been largely overlooked by history compared to her partner.  Campbell could have made a bit more of this sexist discrepancy.

Campbell’s parents have made this one of the higher-profile debuts of the Fringe, but that has left her inexperience exposed.  Her bold stage manner and sense of mischief could stand her in good stead once she evolves. But for the moment, the subjects and the jokes that don’t concern her family's political ties are relatively basic.

Review date: 11 Aug 2019
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Gilded Balloon Teviot

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