Sunday, 11 August 2019

EDINBURGH FRINGE REVIEW: Kemp's Jig at the Space on the Mile

This short play provides a fascinating insight into Elizabethan England's Entertainment using the famous story of Will Kemp's famous jig over 125 miles from London to Norwich in February 1599 as Steve Taylor recreates the celebrity comedian/Morris dancer and his relationship with Shakespeare and the audiences of the time.

Kemp was a big star and shareholder in the Theatre alongside Burbage and Shakes Rags as he calls him but conflict arrived as he liked to add his own comedy and dance which detracted from the bard's words and in the playwrights eyes mutilated his plays. As a result despite the adoring groundlings, he is forced out of the Lord Chamberlain's men and set off to exploit his own popularity on the journey to Norwich. 

Over the course of the nine actual day's journey, which were actually spread over 27 days, he describes the horrific Bear baiting and public hangings that were alternative forms of public amusement. He provides a vivid description of the effect of the Black Plague which was ravishing London at that time and may have been a reason for his journey to Norwich to escape the effects. It paints a picture of the society in which Shakespeare's plays were first staged.

The show works because of the clowning skills, the charismatic delivery and theatricality of the performance of Taylor. We are introduced to his strange mop head dog and then puppetry to create scenes from the Merchant of Venice . Kemp longed to play the nurse in Romeo and Juliet and this provides the opportunity to give us his best Pantomime Dame. He creates the persona of Shakespeare by gently stroking his chin as he speaks, a simple devise to distinguish the two central protagonists of the story.

As a Fringe show this felt a little rushed and I am sure there is more that can be done with this story and the period in a longer form. However, It provides a delightful slice of Elizabethan entertainment that seemed appropriate in the context of a 21st century Fringe schedule and for anyone who likes Shakespeare, Clowning or storytelling it is definitely worth the price of the ticket.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: unreserved | Price of Ticket: £9
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