Published: 30/04/2014 15:35 - Updated: 30/04/2014 15:59

Luke brings sounds of Downton upstairs

Luke Kempner
Luke Kempner

DOWNTON Abbey is making another trip to the Highlands.

But unlike that Christmas special where the Crawley family and their servants decamped to Argyll, this time they are only sending their voices — in the person of impressionist Luke Kempner.

Actor Kempner first unveiled his talent for mimicking the Downton cast in a YouTube video that was quickly picked up by celebrity followers including Stephen Fry and Sir Tom Jones.

A sell out solo show at the Edinburgh Fringe followed and now Kempner brings The Only Way is Downton to Eden Court this week as part of his first UK tour.

But what drew you to Downton as a subject? Are you a genuine fan of the show or approaching it more from its comedy potential?

It all started when I was watching the show in 2012.I could do a few of the voices like Mr Carson and Thomas and I decided to do a You Tube video called Downstairs at Downton I put 12 characters into it and it was a story based around finding the culprit who had placed the Salt and the Pepper the wrong way round.

That video was retweeted but Stephen Fry, Matt Lucas and Sir Tom Jones. And it all went from there. I’m a huge fan of the show and can’t wait for the next series. Praying it won’t be the last.

It’s always hard to pick favourites, but is there a Downton character that’s a particular pleasure to play?

My favourite to play is between the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) and Carson (Jim Carter). Carson in my show is a pretty good singer and it pleases my mum no end that I sing a bit in the show! So probably Carson is my favourite.

You didn’t set out to be an impressionist, so what made you decide to take the plunge with your solo show?

I was loving performing in some of the biggest musicals around and in between scenes I would always be doing impressions of other cast members and footballers mainly! I had always done impressions from when I was at secondary school.

I had one bad experience though, where at the tender age of 12 my friend Ben asked me to do my impression of Jake from the Tweenies in front of his older sister and her friends (that I was obviously in love with). They didn’t laugh at all. It almost put me off for life.

Luckily, when I was at drama school I had finally got over the trauma and decided to get up and perform some impressions of the teachers at the annual Christmas concert. They had always gone down well and so it was something I had always wanted to pursue professionally when the time was right.

I had just finished a long 14-month tour of South Pacific and started putting some videos on YouTube. The reaction was a lot larger than I had expected. From YouTube in 2012 I went to the Edinburgh Festival in 2013 with The Only Way Is Downton. And here we are in 2014, touring the UK and going back to the festival in the summer.

How was it going from being a part of major shows like Les Miserables and Avenue Q to being a solo performer — especially in the bear pit that is the Edinburgh Fringe?

It’s brilliant most of the time, but where I’m used to coming off stage and high fiving cast members of the show (we never high fived) to then coming off stage to just myself, it can get a little lonely.

I have made some pals along the way and will make a few more at the festival this year. Find a friend for Luke Kempner!

Are there any voices that have simply defeated you, no matter how much you want to do an impression of them?

Not yet! Some are harder to get the voice so I concentrate more on the mannerisms, Sue Perkins for instance. Richard Osmon from Pointless is a tricky one too but the essence of him is there.

What of the future? Are there other shows you fancy giving the same treatment to? And is impressionism likely to edge out acting in your immediate career?

There are a few shows I would like to have a go at, it’s picking the right one. It has to be a show that has a massive following. Downton receives 10 million viewers so it has to be along those lines. We shall see!

I have some interesting straight acting opportunities coming up in the near future so it will be a bit of both.

• Luke Kempner brings The Only Way is Downton to the OneTouch Theatre, Eden Court, on Thursday 1st May at 8pm.

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