Review: Ro Campbell – Midnight Meltdown – The Stand (2), Edinburgh.
Ro Campbell enters the room, arms aloft. Thrilled to be playing to a bumper crowd of 8, he immediately teases out of me the fact that I am a reviewer. Though Ro has just made a difficult task much harder for himself, he seems fairly unabashed. If the Australian comic is to be believed, Midnight Meltdown is his sixth show of the day, a touch of hysteria detectable behind his eyes as he fervently clutches his glass of whiskey.
Campbell is at times abrasive, yet is at times disarmingly charming. The lack of audience allows for a more relaxed, informal atmosphere, the comedian taking the opportunity to try out some of his newer material. An earlier gig hasn’t gone well, but this one starts off promisingly, with Ro delighted to have roped in some fellow Aussies he has found at the bar. A side splitting political gag about an American heckler sets the tone beautifully, allowing him to effectively kick his act into gear.
It is this strain of incredibly goofy humour that plays to Campbell’s strengths, the reveal left hanging much longer than in most set ups. An examination of the perils of living next to a zoo has a roaring punch line in more ways than one, while he hits a rich vein of form explaining why the London riots never spread to Edinburgh. A hilarious section about the Glasgow Barrowland market goes down a treat, despite Ro’s incessant use of dodgy accents to illustrate his points.
Though much of Midnight Meltdown is silly, slightly unhinged fun, a strain of dark humour lurks behind the harmless facade. Campbell’s shambling, tentative offering to the ‘rape joke’ debate plunges the show into jet black territory, though it becomes no less humorous because of it.
The slightly experimental nature of tonight’s performance does, unfortunately, somewhat hinder parts of the show. The three Australians in attendance are treated to a plethora of culturally specific jokes, Campbell perhaps choosing the easier path owing to the lack of crowd. The result is that many gags are a little lost on the entirely British front row, though we are constantly reassured that they would go down well in his home country (but certainly not in New Zealand). Some rougher material about the Taliban also falls a little flat, with Ro struggling to find a belly laugh to end his show on.
That being said, Midnight Meltdown is a thoroughly enjoyable hour of comedy that would have perhaps benefitted from a little more structure. Campbell’s scattergun approach, however, pays dividends more often than not, leaving a small but appreciative crowd satisfied.
Date of live review: Monday 20th August 2012.