Fringe Online 2020
At the backstage area of the Hampton Hill Theatre two legendary figures, Will Kemp and Nelly Power, discuss their grievances against William Shakespeare and Marie Lloyd in a short piece that goes through the plague, their love of performing, the lack of opportunities being afforded to them and how lesser stage performers are either nicking their acts or changing the face of the theatre to which they passionately want to return.
I have seen Kemp’s Jig live at the Fringe but not Marie Lloyd stole my life. As I sat to watch this I wondered if it would make me want to go and view either of them on the back of the performances I was about to gratefully receive as both stars of their shows were now spookily backstage and having a chat. Of course, these are performances and not adverts for their stage shows but there can be little doubt that not so ironically, the subject matters discussed chime with the times in which we live.
Both Steve Taylor and Lottie Walker would have much preferred, I am sure, to have their live shows up onstage than be stuck in the wings waiting for their next opportunity. This shines through both performances. Despite the difficulties they face, they have managed to create enough of a difference between live action and filmed performances to tell the tale and also to remind us of why live theatre is so important.
It’s no mean feat and what serves them well is the text. It manages to convey their frustration as performers and as characters well. In terms of performance Taylor has clearly played Kemp for some time and manages to be all craft and guile and upset candour whilst showing the self absorption that probably made Kemp insufferable at the many Inns he had to stay in as he jigged to the counties.
As for Walker I was a little less convinced though the insecurity of a woman who was eclipsed by an act who was possibly the better performer is achieved. In the exchanges there was an imbalance as Kemp tended to dominate and drive the conversation and given that Power was indeed, a powerful woman would have hoped for a little less deference. I think it would have helped drive the drama. As such the direction needed a slightly stronger hand on the tiller as I thought we could have done with a performance push.
In particular, given the tragedies that befell both characters, Power dying of pleurisy at only 32 and Kemp ignominiously disappearing after all that jigging in his mid 40’s there was something that was left very much unsaid.
The lighting at some points was a little less than helpful but that is more than forgivable, given where we are in theatre today.
As for would it drive me to see them again – absolutely. I am intrigued to see them both. For Nelly Power a new experience and for Kemp’s Jig an opportunity to once again see a performer who has the character well under his own skin.