Free Fringe: Rowan Campbell

The Skinny's comedy editor, Emma Lennox, has decided to single handedly review the Free Fringe. This is the first installment.

Article by Emma Ainley-Walker | 18 Aug 2008

Squeezing between the burly armed men of George Street's Standing Order pub, I spot a hand written sign in green marker. It is scrawled in straight forward letters: 'PBH's Free Fringe', and points to an empty room. Clearly this is no multimillion pound comedy festival enterprise, it's a hung black curtain and a bucket for donations. Yet it’s full of unlimited possibilities crow-barred into the available nooks and crannies of Edinburgh's still burgeoning festival scene. And this is where the undiscovered may just remain completely undiscovered.

As a crowd swells into the venue, I decide to make it my mission to find the best of the free fringe and speak forth about its bounties. I realise with absolute certainty that I will fail, but like the endeavours of the free fringe itself- the effort is worth it.

Today the venue is filling up fast for Scottish comedy circuit regular, Rowan Campbell.

You would think the ex-Rolling Stones roadie would have some insightful tales to impart, especially with a show entitled Keith Richards and I, but in fact the Aussie rocker doesn't want to kiss and tell. "Rock n Roll stories are shit" he informs us, admitting the title is just a cynical ploy to get arses on seats. As it turns out he needn't have bothered. The room is full to brimming, but everybody here just wants to see some comedy, which Campbell happily provides.

Campbell is a confident performer, easily handling the merry rabble of the weekend drinking crowd with his droll delivery style. His dry set-ups are emphasised by his lethargic Australian tones as he hammers home the punchlines. Campbell knows how to hold the audience's attention and his patter is precisely timed, showing the craft of a circuit pro. His material, however, is a little less subtle. Campbell plays on stereotypes of all kinds: American, Scottish, Australian, but never manages to take anything to any new levels. Amidst the more obvious material Campbell does take some risks, a tactic which pays off with a few well placed lines, but while Campbell obviously has the skills, a few more thrills are needed before he becomes a true rock 'n' roll star.

Ro Campbell - Keith Richards and I, The Standing Order, Until Aug 23 (not 18,19) 16:00, free