Will Kemp has been reborn for the 2019 Fringe, The Mumble went to find out the who & the why
Hello Steve, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I was born in Rochdale many years ago, but now live in West London (not lost my accent though!).
When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
It was always there. My interest was first ignited in primary school, with a passion for singing and acting increasing during my secondary years.
Can you tell us a little about your training & acting experience?
My “training” has always been “on the job” but from my late teens the experience came thick and fast. I learned a huge amount about both acting and directing from my late friend, the playwright Jimmie Chinn.
What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
Storyline, acting quality, and great direction.
What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
A perfect one – with friends, preferably in an hostelry with great weather, although usually I spend an imperfect one looking at an ironing board.
Can you tell us about Blue Fire Theatre Company?
Blue Fire was formed just 2 years ago as an independent theatre company with the specific remit to produce work about theatre and the wider entertainment industry. The company’s mantra is to re-invigorate and keep alive characters and works from British drama history lost from the past and to educate new generations of performers about their heritage.
Can you describe your working relationship with Lottie in a single sentence?
No, but I will try. Working with Lottie is a truly collaborative and professional experience, with the collaboration and creative element usually being at its best over a few drinks. We have completely different approaches and skills sets so are a good team on and offstage. That is not answering the question in one sentence, but then I said I’d not be able to do that!
At the last Edinburgh Festival Fringe you won rave reviews for playing George Pepper in Noel Coward’s Red Peppers – what did you learn from the experience?
Keep energy levels high, serve the playwright and keep your teeth in.
You’re performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe with something new, can you tell us about the play?
In short it tells the tale of a marathon Morris dance from London to Norwich that took place in 1600. It’s based on the “Nine Daies Wonder”, Will Kemp’s own journal of the dance he undertook when he parted ways with Shakespeare. Kemp was an international mega-star in the 16th Century and a creator of many of Shakespeare’s comic roles. The show is full of anecdotes of both his travels and life in The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. He fell out with Shakespeare after one too many arguments over “serving the playwright” (see above) rather than improvising and putting his own variety “spot” in the middle of Shakespeare’s fine works. The key thing to note is that the show is accessible and fun for people who are not Shakespeare afficionados (like myself!) as much as for Shakespeare fans looking for something a little different.
Where did the idea for Kemp’s Jig originate?
From Chris Harris, a friend of Lottie’s, who originally wrote and performed the work around the world. Chris played most of the Shakespearean roles originated by Kemp and also had a background in clowning so it was a natural progression for him to devise this show, that is a mix of stand-up, story-telling and acting with a bit of clowning thrown in. Morris dancing in the 45 minute version is kept to a minimum!
This is your first foray into Shakespeare – why now?
Well, it’s not strictly Shakespeare. Apart from two small excerpts of his plays in the show that serve as illustration, the piece is about Kemp’s relationship with Shakespeare the man. It was this relationship that first piqued my interest; that and the fact that Shakespeare is very much a minor character in this play about a superstar of his time who is barely known now. I have to confess to enjoying playing both Launcelot Gobbo and Dogberry, though – so who knows what the future holds….
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
Join me on an Elizabethan roadshow with Will Kemp and enjoy a factual, comedic look at one man’s rise and fall in his relationship with The Bard. Will Kemp – Shakespeare’s forgotten clown – and the original 9 day wonder!