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A spot of illumination on stage

I seem destined to miss this. Again. Back in 1976 or thereabouts comedian-actor-director Ken Campbell and actor-writer-director Chris Langham founded The Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool next door to The Beatles old haunt, The Cavern.


Their aim at the time was to stage an adaptation of Illuminatus, a new age trilogy of apocalypse, satire, history, fantasy and self critique by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. Which is what they did. All three volumes, the whole bloody twisted saga was distilled into a theatre production that would unfold over NINE HOURS. That’s nine hours! You go into the theatre and emerge nine hours later. Right. Naturally, the production gained a cult reputation as a trippy tour-de-force. It made the jump from Liverpool alleyways to the illustrious South Bank headquarters of the National Theatre in London. For a golden age it took up residence in the Cottesloe Theatre. The cast included Jim Broadbent. I’m not sure if I already knew the Illuminatus novels at the time? Actually I must have, a news item showed Sheriff Campbell arresting our protagonist for possession. I already knew the scene. Coincidentally, fliers used the same design as the paperbacks. Needless to say, I was desperate to see this stage version. Could I swing it? As a family trip? As a school trip? I could not.

Now it seems that Campbell’s daughter is revisiting the stamping grounds of the Illuminati. Daisy Campbell’s parents met during the original staging. She has turned her own attention to Cosmic Trigger, a pseudo-biography of Illuminatus co-author Robert Anton Wilson (who continued to mine the concepts beyond the original trilogy).

Again, after a Liverpudlian debut, Cosmic Trigger has set up shop in London, this time at Marylebone’s Cockpit Theatre. (Interesting chip shop round the corner.) This play also comes in at a more comfortable four hours. That’s FOUR HOURS if you are counting. It runs until May 27th.

So can I make it down to London? Argh! Somehow I don’t think this will get a simulcast to Cellb!


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