Having made his name with YouTube hit Downstairs at Downton, and appearances in musicals including Les Mis and Avenue Q, Kempner’s debut solo show won critical acclaim and sell-out audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Luke sat down with me for a cuppa and a chat about the show coming to the Trafalgar Studios from 27th January.
1. For those who may not be familiar with you work, can you tell me about yourself and some of your career highlights?
My top three career highlights have been firstly, playing Marius when Les Mis was in Paris while my Mum was in the audience. Nothing will ever top that for her – maybe me being a regular on EastEnders. Secondly would be performing impressions on BBC Radio 2 to 600 people in an auditorium, but to millions of listeners. It was completely off the cuff as I got a phone call 2 minutes after my show in Edinburgh and had to run there. And thirdly would be when my YouTube video Downstairs at Downton got tweeted by Stephen Fry, then Matt Lucas, then Binky from Made In Chelsea. All the people I really look up to.
2. Tell me about The Only Way Is Downton and what people can expect to see from you at the show.
It’s a one man impressions show. I play 36 characters. It’s an hour and a half with a 15 minute interval. The premise is that Downton is in financial ruin after Lord Grantham has invested all the money in to the wrong thing. On top of that, the Dowager announces she is engaged to be married (to a much a younger man). She wants the most lavish wedding imaginable “To have money and not spend it, is like an Arab saving sand”. Lord Grantham sets Carson the task of raising some money to save Downton. The Downstairs staff decide to go on some TV shows and compete at some sporting events to help raise money. Shows like The Great British Bake Off, The X Factor and Pointless. Throw in Alan Carr, Andy Murray and The Bishop of Liverpool, there’s lots to have a laugh with!
3. If I asked your friends to describe you in three words, what would they be?
Cheeky, Rapscallion, Bumptious!
I’m joking, my pals would not know what those last two were.
4. If you could be the opposite sex for the day, what musical theatre role would you like to have a go at playing?
Cousin Nettie in Carousel
5. What is your favourite impression to do?
In the show it would have to be Lady Mary. She wasn’t in the Edinburgh production because I couldn’t get an impression of her down. Now I have, it is definitely my favourite.
6. Do you have a favourite Musical Theatre show or song that means a lot to you?
I would say Lift. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had on a show and it’s just the most amazing bit of music by Craig Adams.
7. What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
Forgetting to put my mic on when I was in South Pacific. I only realized when I was on stage. I then thought I would cleverly say my line in to Cameron Jack’s mic (the other half of my double act). Unbeknownst to me, the sound team had realised I’d forgotten my mic and turned his mic up to pick me up from where I was. I lent in to his mic and deafened the audience. They must have thought God had just entered the theatre, or the real Phantom of the Opera.
Thank you for having Tea With Wilma
The Only Way Is Downton plays at London’s Trafalgar Studios from 27th January until 22nd February 2014. Click here to buy tickets.