Edinburgh Fringe 2019
Will Kemp is off to Norwich and shall jig all the merry way there. He will tell you all about his travels and his observations as well as his beef with one wordsmith, Will Shakespeare. Brought to the stage by Steve Taylor we get the 9 days of merriment and the finale of finally playing the nurse from Romeo and Juliet, all the while hearing the news from one who was there at the time.
This is a historical treat as we get to enjoy the company of an actor who has a script, weighted on the side of storytelling. It’s a craft to be able to inhabit a character and show how they have viewed life from their times. The script manages to provide an excellent platform as it takes us from the journey’s beginning in London through to its end in Norwich. On the way Taylor manages to not only keep us on his track but fill it with colour and description that comes alive tripping off his tongue.
The direction is sound, and we see the entire stage used to great effect. Even the photographer who got in on the act by switching on the room lights by mistake got the right amount of ribbing form someone who took it all in his stride and carried on; just like Will Kemp claims to have done.
Theatrically in such an intimate space this works beautifully, though at times the nature of the countdown does mean that you get to notch up how long you might have left to go by how many days on the journey have passed.
Of course, in amongst the stories of the journey, the weather and the inns, the roads and the 9 days of travelling that included many of resting, we get Burbage, Shakespeare and all the fun of the Fairs.
The story of the hanging, drawing and quartering was a particular favourite, not because I have a blood lust but due to the way in which Taylor is able to draw us in and tell the tale simply but with enough of the guts and gore to make it real. I would also have followed Shakespeare’s leaving the scene!
There is also the bear bating, prevalent of the time but abhorred of ours – so there is no historical dressing up, we get it as it was.
To get some of the background to the Chamberlain’s men and the move to the Globe was great too and Taylor serves as a very effective teller of that tale.
The set and the costumes were great with the dog being another great part of his story. It gives rise to the conflict with Shakespeare and we all knew, even Kemp, that there was always only going to be one winner.
Taylor keeps us attentive throughout and I loved the journey he took us on. It may not be the type of performance that will have them queuing in the corridors to get in to see but it has enough theatricality and flair to make it thoroughly enjoyable.