Ada Campe is the comedy alias of performer and researcher Naomi Paxton. She's an ageing, richly coiffured, lavishly dressed variety artist with a voice like caramel and a deliciously husky laugh. Campe, that is, not Paxton.
It’s a wonderful character. Part raconteur, part magician, part comedian, Campe is as enigmatic as she is eccentric. The comedy comes in two ways: when Campe turns her heavily sequined charade up to 11, smiling maniacally and gesturing extravagantly, and when she lets the bubble burst and the veneer of music hall mystery slips.
Her show, Ada Campe and the Psychic Duck, is basically one long, rambling, shaggy dog story about her early career in cabaret with a travelling troupe in Tenby. It heads off down many a diversion and stops for a few comedically clunky magic routines, but Campe keeps the momentum going well.
The tale doesn’t really go anywhere—the final destination is a wacky, fortune-telling routine with a squeaky plastic duck—but the fun is in the meandering route taken to get there. And Campe is such a friendly on-stage presence that none of the silly audience participation bits along the way feel forced. The finale, when two spectators are hauled on stage and made to chase each other round with inflatable balloon-swords, is brilliantly handled.
It’s not boundary breaking stuff, it’s not cutting-edge character comedy, but there’s easily enough warmth and wit to sustain an hour. And an hour with Ada will not be forgotten in a hurry.