In 1600 English Will Kemp triumphantly arrived in Norwich after Morris dancing the entire 125-mile journey from London. Now audiences can relive his one-man romp through the country lanes of Elizabethan England in Blue Fire Theatre Company’s production of Chris Harris’ play Kemp’s Jig which is heading to those very locations: the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich on 28 September 2022 and Hampton Hill Theatre in Richmond on 1 October.
A clown and a playwright have an argument and the clown sets off on a publicity stunt, Morris dancing 125 miles to capitalise on his celebrity status. Little has been heard of him since. What happens to the playwright? Well, he stays in London and becomes the most famous writer in history. Who’s laughing now?!
Known as the ‘Nine Day Wonder’ for his Morris dancing stunt, Will Kemp was also a huge star across the whole of Europe for creating several of William Shakespeare’s comedy roles.
In fact, along with Shakespeare, Kemp was shareholder in The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the troupe of actors that built the original Globe Theatre. The story goes that Kemp and Shakespeare fell out over a play: the Bard’s writing was becoming more sophisticated and he wanted it to be more respected, while Kemp was a master of improvisation and saw no reason why he and his comedy dog should be restricted by a script.
Shakespeare stayed in London and went on to become the most famous playwright in history, while Kemp attempted to capitalise on his celebrity status and embarked on a bizarre publicity stunt, Morris dancing the 125 miles from London to Norwich.
Blue Fire Theatre Company says: “Kemp’s Jig has been performed all over the world, but there’s something very special about bringing it to East Anglia. We travel to Norwich and not only to Norwich, but to the Maddermarket Theatre where Kemp [now played by Steve Taylor, following in writer Chris Harris’ footsteps] officially ended his dance all those years ago. The show dances along the route of the A12 and beyond, introducing the audience to a selection of richly comic characters, a spot of bear baiting and even a public execution…
“Kemp then dances back to London for one night only in Hampton Hill, where the theatre is a near neighbour of Hampton Court Palace.”
What the critics said:
- ‘Captivating from the very first line… wildly entertaining’ – Mumble Theatre Press (2019)
- ‘A historical treat’ – Fringe Review (2019)
- ‘The National Theatre should invite Kemp’s Jig back’ – Bernard Levin, Sunday Times (original production)
- ‘A wholly seductive evening’ – Sheridan Morley, Punch (original production)
An Elizabethan tale of bruised egos and sore feet, Kemp’s Jig mixes commedia dell’arte, music hall revue, stand-up comedy and traditional storytelling to tell the story of Kemp’s adventures on the 17th century road.
Think part Shakespeare in Love, part Upstart Crow and part traditional end of the pier show. It’s all a bit Carry On, Shakespeare!
You can see Kemp’s Jig at the Maddermarket Theatre, St John’s Alley, Norwich NR2 1DR on 28 September 2022 (Tickets: £12, 25% discount on all groups of four and above) and Hampton Hill Theatre, TW12 1NZ on 1 October 2022 (Tickets: £12, group offer: four tickets for £40).