Downton Abbey gets the Luke Kempner treatment when he sets out to show The Only Way is Downton for the Petworth Festival.
Luke will be in action twice in one day with shows at 4.30pm and 7.45pm on Friday, July 18 in the Leconfield Hall.
The show is the debut for impressionist Luke, star of YouTube hit Downstairs At Downton, Les Misérables and Avenue Q. In the piece, celebrities start appearing at Downton Abbey, cultures clash and eras hilariously collide in a brilliant new parody.
“I have been doing impressions since I was at drama school, but I went into musical theatre for a while,” says Luke. “I did things like Les Mis and South Pacific, but a couple of years ago, I decided to commit fully to the impressions.”
He offered his Downton impressions on YouTube, and they were picked up by a producer who suggested he turn them into a show, which he did last year at Edinburgh: “It sold out the entire run.
“We did some extra shows, and then we went into the West End in January this year, and then I have been on tour in the UK ever since, going to different places.”
Luke had had various ideas involving Tom Daley and Andy Murray: “But with Downton, really you have got a whole world. The characters are great archetypes. You have got the cook and the assistant cook, and you have got the Lord and the butler, and each one of these characters is brilliantly performed. The great thing is that it is easy to find the little isms that let you into the characters.”
Luke duly proves his point, reeling off a string of interlocking characters from Downton, each with idiosyncrasies which make their relationship with the next ripe with comic potential.
“But it is all done with love. I love Maggie Smith. I love the storylines. It’s basically a fantastic soap.”
As for the impressions, as Luke says, to an extent you have to believe in your own ability: “You have to trust yourself really. I know that I have got a good ear and can impersonate people. I can hear people’s voices, and I can learn them. But that’s not the hardest thing really. The hardest thing is to find something for them to say.
“It’s quite easy to speak like Andy Murray,” Luke says, sounding exactly like Andy Murray.
“And it is very easy so say ‘I am Andy Murray, and I am very excited’” – which Luke duly does, sounding not remotely excited, which is, of course, the joke.
“But you have got to have something more.”
Which is why Downton is such a good starting point, providing him with the stories which will interweave the characters. It might be the blueprint for other shows.
Luke would certainly contemplate one bringing together EastEnders, Corrie and Emmerdale – or maybe one inspired by Call The Midwife. Or maybe, if they keep on making the series, a Downton 2.
It won’t be political, though. That’s not Luke’s style.
“There used to be a more political bit in my show, but because of my age and the way I look, keeping away from the more satirical side of things is probably better for me. I think that other people, Mike Yarwood and Rory Bremner, have all done those political characters. I am more interested in the new faces, people like Tom Daley and Andy Murray.”
It certainly means keeping abreast of who’s current and who’s not: “You have got someone like Tom Daley who is always in and out of the news, but there are other people that just disappear.”