Kenneth and Daisy Eris: A Campbell Clan Discordian Continuum

Illuminatus! poster for the Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool production, 1976.

On November 23rd, 1976 (which just so happens to be a high holy day in Discordianism, both due to the mystical manifestation of the number 23 and because it’s Harpo Marx’s birthday) an Englishman named Kenneth Campbell premiered a ten-hour stage production of Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s Illuminatus! (Amazon Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover) at the Science-Fiction Theatre in Liverpool. In true Discordian fashion, the production consisted of five plays of five acts each, with each act 23 minutes in length. As Wilson wrote in Cosmic Trigger (Paperback):

Ken Campbell’s adaptation was totally faithful to this nihilistic spirit and contained long unexpurgated speeches from the novel explaining at sometimes tedious length just why everything the government does is always done wrong. The audiences didn’t mind this pedantic lecturing because it was well integrated into a kaleidoscope of humor, suspense, and plenty of sex (more simulated blow jobs than any drama in history, I believe.)

Working with the National Theatre (under the Patronage of Queen Elizabeth, no less!), Campbell arranged for the two Bobs, Wilson and Shea, to be flown across the pond for the London production premiere. In appreciation of Her Majesty’s largesse, Wilson made a cameo appearance: “The cast dared me to do a walk-on role during the National Theatre run. I agreed and became an extra in the Black Mass, where I was upstaged by the goat, who kept sneezing. Nonetheless, there I was, bare-ass naked, chanting ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law’ under the patronage of Elizabeth II, Queen of England, and I will never stop wondering how much of that was programmed by Crowley before I was even born.” According to Michael Coveney’s Ken Campbell bio, RAW was so nervous about his nude cameo that he dropped some acid before going on stage, as well as doling out hits to other actors in the play.

At some point, during the course of the production (if I got the story straight), Kenneth Campbell’s daughter, Daisy Eris Campbell, was conceived backstage. More on the adventures of Daisy Campbell in a bit….

A year after of the Illuminatus! stage production, a Discordian reunion of sorts took place that included Bob and Arlen Wilson, Louise Lacey, Greg Hill, Bob and Rita Newport, as well as several other friends of the Wilson’s who traveled to Seattle to take in the Illuminatus! stage production during its stateside run.

‘Twas a chilly Seattle night (as the story goes), so someone (who shall remain nameless) produced enough MDMA for Wilson and all his colleagues (ingested between the second and third acts) which in due time took the chill from the bones of the assembled Discordians—and cranked up the glow surrounding their collected auras—as they sat entranced by the spectacle which unfolded.

Wilson (l) and Shea (r) during the Illuminatus! publication period.

The MDMA notwithstanding, Louise Lacey recalls the Illuminatus! stage production as a “sublime experience” which had one and all rolling in the aisles.

In the spirit of the Illuminatus! stage play—and filled with the same sort of Erisian inspiration as her dearly departed father—Daisy Eris Campbell has taken on the task of creating a stage adaption of Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger, which you can find out more about in the YouTube video to follow.

Here’s a great article on Ken Campbell, Illuminatus! and other Liverpool romps.

And this just in! An update from Daisy Eris!

UPDATE: January 8, 2014: More on the 1978 Seattle Stage Production of Illuminatus!.

This entry was posted in book, daisy eris campbell, discordianism, illuminatus!, kenneth campbell, play, robert anton wilson, robert newport, robert shea, video. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Kenneth and Daisy Eris: A Campbell Clan Discordian Continuum

  1. maz says:

    Bill Drummond of the very-influenced-by-Illuminatus! rock band, The KLF, did stage design for the London version of this. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KLF

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*


two − = 1

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>