YMT blog

Photo: Michael Farley

5 things you should know about Lindsay Kemp


One of the UK’s greatest creative artists is the original creator of one of our new productions happening at Riverside Studios this summer! 

Variété was originally written, directed and performed by Lindsay Kemp, and is being re-imagined with the help of director Kinny Gardener and Chilean composer Carlos Miranda.

Let’s have a look at some of the things you should probably know about him!

1. He inspired Ziggy Stardust

David Bowie was a student of Kemp whilst he operated a dance and mime company that he opened in the 70s, and a lot of Bowie’s image choices were inspired directly by Kemp. Lindsay also starred in Bowie’s music video for his single “John, I’m only Dancing”. So in turn, the countless musicians and artists influenced by Bowie have also been influenced by Kemp too!

2. He’s a true Northerner

Kemp was born “up north” in the coastal town of South Shields which isn’t far from Newcastle upon Tyne.  His mum seemed to think he didn’t quite fit in with other lads his age… "I'd dance on the kitchen table to entertain the neighbours. I mean, it was a novelty in South Shields to see a little boy in full make-up dancing on pointe. Finally it got a bit too much for my mother, and she decided to send me to boarding school at the age of eight, hoping that it would knock some sense into me."

3. He taught Kate Bush too!

Wuthering Heights singer Kate Bush was also one of Kemp’s students, and in return he supported her in a short film she directed and starred in. The Line, the Cross and the Curve is based on the tale played out in Bush’s music video for the song The Red Shoes. The story follows a dancer, possessed by her art, who can’t get rid of the red shoes and find harmony.

4. He starred in the old version of spooky thriller The Wicker Man

The original horror film made in 1973 stars Kemp as Alder MacGregor, a creepy pub landlord. The plot follows a police sergeant who is sent to a Scottish island village in search of a missing girl, the twist is the townsfolk claim she never existed… 

5. He was told he wasn’t meant to be a dancer

Kemp was informed whilst he was training, by a very important dance teacher at a very important school in London, that he was “temperamentally and physically unsuited to be a dancer". Guess she was wrong.... There’s hope for the most un-coordinated of us out there then!

Written by Heather Welsh. Photo Credit: Michael Farley

Kinny Gardner

An interview with Kinny Gardner


With the launch of the new music theatre season at Riverside Studios fast approaching, we thought it’d be a good time to have a little chat with the director behind our amazing new production, Variété.

The show, set in 1936, follows a wandering naïf who joins a sideshow circus, the eccentric cast of which are rarely what they seem. Heather Welsh talks to the performer, director and teacher Kinny Gardner about his inspiration and what you can do to get into music theatre.

How did you feel taking on the role of director for this production, for the first time since its original creator Lindsey Kemp?

Suitably nervous, but still inspired by his original vision. As he himself has said “I have always had the compulsion to make my dreams realities...”.

Why should people come and see the production?

Variété is such a rarity: a darkly seductive yet lyrical musical work, surreal and expressionistic yet moving and very funny. Rarely does one get such a plethora of delights in one theatre piece.

Where did you take your inspiration from?

In this all-new staging, designed by Chris de Wilde - my favourite visualist - I took a lot of inspiration from spending time with and talking in depth to the composer of the piece, Carlos Miranda. As old collaborators, touring together to the opera houses of the world with Lindsay Kemp’s company, we have been able to re-visit many of Kemp’s original.

What’s your favourite thing about performing?

The connection with the public.

And your favourite production(s)?

Lindsay Kemp's Flowers remains a soul-stirring masterpiece: a work which influenced so many others, creative artists and adoring public alike. I have also many fond memories of performing in the earlier production of The Rocky Horror Show on Kings Road, London for quite a few years. If only I'd had an opportunity to be in Jerry Springer, The Opera, I loved it and the composer is my hero...

You’re obviously a very busy man! How do you juggle your various commitments?

Freelance theatre artists learn to juggle at an early age! I also spin plates... It's easier to plan in advance now due to computer connections and assorted apps, the diary has been replaced by the phone, but one still has to keep a firm eye on availability and allow for some sort of breaks. Even if that's a break with a meeting in the middle. I'm currently on a train to Manchester to finalise designs for Edmund the Learned Pig at the Royal Exchange Theatre, running in October 2013, and will grab an early supper with friends. Multitasking, eh?

Multitasking to the max! And finally, have you got any tips for any budding actors/singers/directors out there?

Go for it. Starve in a garret, pick pennies out of the Trevi Fountain, sing on street corners, live for your art....DO IT.

Variété comes to the Riverside Studios, this summer from 29 August - 1 September 2013