Writer and performer: Luke Kempner
Reviewer: Stephen Bates
Luke Kempner lifted himself above the masses of comedy impressionists with his hit show The Only Way is Downton, which made it into London’s West End. Since then, he has been out to prove that the only way is not downhill with similar shows and a venture into musical theatre, playing Marius in Les Misérables. After an unsuccessful audition for Hamilton, he is now back with the Downton format, a collection of impressions, predominantly drawn from television shows.
Foregoing the formal attire of the Downton show, Kempner jumps around the stage animatedly, wearing a flowery shirt and ripped jeans. To establish his credentials with the audience, he does Trump and Boris, both de rigueur for modern impressionists, effortlessly. His David Attenborough and his Ant and Dec are also spot on and, to please the Scottish folk present, his sketch of Judy Murray presiding over a gathering with her two sons is one of the show’s highlights. If he can do Judy so well, it seems rather a pity that he does not give us a bearded Nicola Sturgeon or Ruth Davidson.
The impressions are held together around a loose structure of Kempner’s five favourite television shows and herein lies the problem. 40 years ago, in the heyday of Mike Yarwood, everyone watched more or less the same things on television and there was a bottomless treasure trove of widely familiar characters ripe for impersonation. Today, with hundreds of television channels and thousands of programmes to choose from, we all watch different things.
At least with Kempner’s earlier hit show, people who were unfamiliar with Downton Abbey had advance warning to stay away. Here, the likes of Love Island, Goggle Box, Game of Thrones and Peaky Blinders resonate with some and mean nothing to others. As a result, too many of Kempner’s impressions fall on stony ground. Kempner is a gifted, natural performer, but things are tough for impressionists right now and this show is too uneven. Let’s wish him luck when Hamilton comes up for re-casting.
Runs until 27 August 2018 | Image: