Cabaret Festival Review: One Hander

Tom Campbell is a one-handed gay Tasmanian actor who pulls from a lifetime of stories of other people’s responses to his hand, or lack thereof, in the form of a stand-up comedy routine.

By
Overall
3

Presented by Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Reviewed 13 June 2019

Written and performed by Tom Campbell, One Hander is essentially a selection of stories from Campbell’s life. Campbell is a one-handed gay Tasmanian actor who pulls from a lifetime of stories of other people’s responses to his hand, or lack thereof, in the form of a stand-up comedy routine. Those reactions are extreme and awkward; funny and shocking; and say a lot about society’s acceptance of physical diversity, or lack thereof.

In this after work slot at 6pm the audience were there for a laugh, a drink and to experience something new. They were open minded, curious and keen to be entertained. Yes, he has one hand. Yes, he has one “stumpy”. Yes, he’s funny and yes, he can sing.

Early in the piece Campbell explained that he was born without his left hand, has never known any different and is comfortable in his own skin. He is at pains to point out that the humour in his routine is predicated on experiences, not anger. However, those lines blur somewhat during the journey, to the extent that one is left wondering where the humour stopped, and the anger began.

As a wannabe Broadway star, Campbell’s performance is complemented with songs inspired by big musicals. It is easy to be tricked by the elevated reverb, but his vocals are sound, though the relevance of some of the songs is unclear.

Although Campbell’s act is largely about snippets of life experiences resulting from “stumpy”, the material goes further. Tom is proudly gay, ok with me thus far, and includes some details about the gay scene that made more for pub humour than cabaret entertainment.  Hmmm. This middle-aged reviewer has negotiated life’s obstacles thus far without knowing that “woof” is a term of endearment for gay hairy men, clearly a reference to canines. I would have been happy to continue without such knowledge. I’m sure I’m not the only one. His ‘casual-to-the-extreme’ look, complete with dirty t-shirt on opening night, compounded the feeling I got that he didn’t care what the audience thought of him. Audiences need to be valued as there is much to choose from in spending your Cabaret Festival dollars. 

Campbell demonstrates some insightful observations, some self-deprecation, some fine singing and emerging cabaret skills.  The simple puppetry piece to finish was as hilarious as it was accurate and varied. He is funny and talented without teaching us about the gay scene.

Reviewed by Trish Francis

Rating out of 5: 3

Venue: Quartet Bar

Season: Until June 14 2019

Duration: 1 hour 10 mins

Tickets: $25 – $34.90

Bookings: https://www.adelaidecabaretfestival.com.au/events/one-hander-tom-campbell/

Cabaret Festival, Adelaide Cabaret Festival, comedy, stand-up, Tom Campbell

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