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No holds Bard in Kemp comedy

It's not only in East Anglia that the spirit of Will Kemp dances on. The rebellious clown also continues to do the rounds in Chris Harris's widely acclaimed one-man show, Kemp's Jig. There's even a new book on the way. And as CAMERON ROBERTSON has been writing in The Stage newspaper, the spirit of Shakespeare gets somewhat battered in the unending revels...

IN THE 17th century, Shakespeare's clown Will Kemp danced from London to Norwich in nine days.

Fast forward 400 years and that is nothing compared to the travels of Chris Harris, who has taken Kemp's story to 55 countries over the last quarter of a century.

"Kemp's Jig was first written and produced at Wimbledon School of Art in 1976, and it hit the jackpot," says 58-year-old Chris, who has performed the show ever since.

He tours five one-man shows, but regards this as the flagship.

Many of Shakespeare's early comic roles were written for Kemp, who made his name with "the jig" - a piece of entertainment at the end of the evening.

"He had a reputation as the best of the jiggers. He was the top banana of his day.

"But he was also an everyman character - a survivor - which I think is the key to his appeal.

"Shakespeare is alwaysa popular subject. People want to see another viewpoint and this is a man who doesn't like him. The show is an evening of Bard bashing."

Chris' book, Will Kemp: Shakespeare's Forgotten Clown, is now out of print, but he is working on another one.

"I want to tell the story of my taking his story around the world, because Kemp danced 125 miles from London to Norwich and I've taken his story millions of miles.

"I also want to record some of the reactions. For instance, they love Shakespeare in India and found it very difficult to accept the idea of a man on stage saying anything bad about him."

Kemp's Jig will be performed at Bridgwater Town Hall on April 19 and at Sheringham Little Theatre on June 3.

Chris will also be performing Kemp's Jig at the Gloucester International Pipe & Tabor Festival on Friday, June 9. For details about all aspects of the festival, contact director Steve Rowley on 01453-763181

Taborers beat a path

From The Stage, April 13th, 2000

The Stage

2000 Cameron Robertson, The Stage

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