Kemp’s Jig

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Script: four-stars.png  Stagecraft: four-stars.png  Performance: four-stars.png


“Let those who play your clowns speak no more than is set down”. Will Kemp is on the move, travelling with a spring in his step away from London towards Norwich. Chased out by embarrassment, though he would never admit it, and the plague. On an eight day trip with plenty of stops along the way, Kemp performs his well known jig to loving audiences, explaining as he goes his recent career changes: from the renowned stage on the south bank of the Thames, to the makeshift open air ones upon which he now taps his feet.

Steve Taylor is excellent as the narrator Kemp, captivating from the very first line. Clearly a seasoned performer, Taylor is so energetic and wildly entertaining. The writing is consistently funny, playing with language in they way an old fashioned comedian might, whittling off subject relevant and pun-heavy jokes. The story is so intelligently considered in this sense, propped up by an impressive knowledge of history and Shakespeare’s work. Occasionally Taylor will himself stumble over a word or two, but his persona is so open and welcoming that it doesn’t harm the show in the slightest, coming off more as a delightful character quirk.

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Lyrically composed, the main focus of Kemp’s Jig is the titular hero’s recent departure from The Globe Theatre, over disputes with both the Bard himself and Richard Burbage. Taylor pitches the famous playwright as an obsessive, playfully mocking him as a writer who just wants his words to be read as they are written. “Why must a great actor like you resort to funny hats, red noses and stuffed dogs on wheels?” Kemp voices Shakespeare’s concern, scratching his chin whenever the impression surfaces. Perhaps old “Shakerags”, as he is lovingly referred, has a point, but Kemp makes a formidable argument with his drunken interpretation of Dogberry and his puppet retelling of a scene from the Merchant of Venice.

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!
Read the full interview…

Still there are more surprises in store. Taylor’s performance covers so much ground in such a short time – relaying yarns about executions and dancing villagers with nothing but pure energy. It is so well delivered that what is sometimes clearly context and set-up never feels like exposition, a testament to Taylor’s incredible ability to sell a story. Had he been afforded a larger space or more time, Taylor may have been able to do more, but the simplicity of the set and hold all trunk that jingles when opened carries a lovely charm. Whether Shakespeare was right to part ways with a jig performer like Kemp may never be clear, but one thing is certain: he would have been excellent as The Nurse in Romeo and Juliet.

Dan Soreen

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Kemp’s Jig

The Space on the Mile

Aug 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 13, 15, 17 (18:55)

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Posted on August 6, 2019, in Edinburgh 2019. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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