FEATURE LINDSAY KEMP
all different. He‘s a showman. through and through. and the fact that you can’t always see
5 where the myth ends and the man begins, is what
makes him such a formidable character. For Lindsay Kemp. there’s no such place as offstage. The stories he tells are not so much lies he says. as — "l‘he lie that tells the truth (Cocteau) — it’s just my way of explaining how I feel.’ Until the Schwarzenegger film True Lies came out last
year. his forthcoming biography was to have ’ been called just that. True Lies.
While the Isle of Lewis remains blissfully unaware of its self-appointed son Kemp. he’s
i certainly made his mark elsewhere. From his 3 early training as a dancer at the Ballet Rambert
School in London to his latter-day resting place in the romantic reaches of Roma. the sprawling,
I itinerant Lindsay Kemp Dance Company has
blazed a glorious trail the length and breadth of
Britain. America and Europe, leaving stunned. often outraged audiences in its wake. Kemp’s
career as a performer has spanned everything
from chorus line. cabaret. straight/experimental
and fashion shows to rock gigs.
. Collaborators have included Christopher Bruce E with whom he created Cruel Garden for Ballet Rambert; David Bowie. for whom he staged
Ziggy Stardust and whom he still considers a close friend — ‘though we’re always falling out’, and the late. great Derek Jarman whose films .S'ebastiane and Jubilee he worked on, and whom he describes with great affection as ‘a shining example to us all’.
Collaborators have included Christopher Bruce with whom he created Cruel Garden for Ballet Rambert; David Bowie, for whom he staged Ziggy Stardust and the late, great Derek Jarman.
In Scotland there are many who remember Kemp from those ‘Edinburgh days’ in the late ()Os, when he and his merry band of followers hung out at the old Traverse Theatre. Phil Crowther. a local dancer, recalls the Turquoise Pantomime out in Troon, where irate church elders brought the curtain down half-way through. ‘It was just so burlesque. so risky,’ explains Crowther. Back in the big town though Kemp had what was almost a cult following. ‘Wtiat he did was awe-inspiring.’ says Crowther. ‘It was almost too much for people to handle.’
Kemp‘s creative energy in those early days was legendary. He insists now, that he’s mellowed with age, that the enfant terrible of his youth has grown old and weary. I search for clues in the plot of Cinderella but fail to find any. A Gothic fairy-tale. with a nasty, spiteful Cinderella. a demented, queer prince and an atmosphere of dark and decadent excess. Mellow is not the first word that springs to mind. ‘lt‘s a real flesh and blood story that’s very true
‘E to the many Cinderella legends,’ explains Kemp. 1 ‘But it’s not pasteurist and it has nothing to do
with Disney. It’s also very beautiful and very pure.‘ he adds. ‘My aim is not to shock, but to delight. l am a member of that medic, the healing profession. I make them laugh, I make them cry. I heal their spirits.’ ‘Always the
clown‘.” I suggest. ‘Exactly,’ comes the reply. At
least that’s one Lindsay Kemp story that’s never going to change. Ll Lindsay Kemp Company, Cinderella, The Festival Theatre, lz'dt'nburgh, 7—10 Feb, 8pm; I 1 Feb, 5pm and 9pm.
14 The List 27 Jan-9 Feb 1995
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Kemp’s Cinderella shall go to the ball
LINDSAY KEMP: The Rock ’n’ Roll Years
1939: Lindsay Kemp is born in Birkenhead, near Liverpool, to Scottish parents.
1941: Kemp’s young sailor father dies at sea.
1947: The young Kemp’s growing obsession with dance is brought to a temporary halt when mum ships him off to nautical school, in the hope they can make a man of him.
1954: Still more interested in doing the hornpipe than sailing the Seven Seas, Kemp auditions at London’s Royal Ballet School. He is rejected as ‘physically and temperamentally unsuitable’.
1955: Kemp runs away from school, works as a window dresser; starts dance and art classes and goes to see his first ballet with none less than David Hockney. Soon after, he begins National Service with the RAF, but is eventually turfed out on his ear after he and a male nurse are, quite literally, caught with their pants down. So begins a spell at the Ballet Rambert School in London,
.and then, nearly ten long years of scraping together a living ‘onstage, backstage, understage and frequently upstaging’, and wherever else it could be found.
1964: The Lindsay Kemp Dance & Mime Company is formed. The first big season for this motley crew is at the Lyric Hammersrnith in London.
1966: Kemp comes over all Scottish and moves lock, stock and barrel to Edinburgh for the next four years. He and his life-long sidekick Orlando (aka Jack Birkett) become a familiar sight around town.
1968: Flowers, the Genet adaptation now hailed as Kemp’s ultimate creation has its debut in Edinburgh.
1972: Kemp appears in the Ken Russell film Savage Messiah.
1973: Appears in the 70s cult thriller The Wicker Man.
1974: Collaborates with alleged one-time lover David Bowie, to mount the legendary Ziggy Stardust gigs. The hit show Flowers transfers to the ICA, then the West End and finally to New York and Broadway.
1975: Creates The Parades Gone By for Ballet Rambert.
1976: Choreographs and appears in the Derek Jannan film Sebastiane.
1977: Creates the all-time classic Cruel Garden for Ballet Rambert in conjunction with Christopher Bruce.
1979: Another milestone is born in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of Kemp’s most enduring productions. In the following years, he was to create numerous shows which played to varying receptions around the world including Duenda, fliiinsky, The Big Parade (a homage to the silent movies), Alice and Dnnegata.
1990: After many years living abroad, first in Barcelona then Italy, Kemp buys a ruined monastery in the hills near Home. He begins restoring the building which will eventually become base for his company.
1995: Still living in a rented flat in Home while work on the monastery continues, Kemp makes a return visit to Edinburgh with his latest production Cinderella, and the rest, as they say, will soon be history. (Ellie Carr)