Downton Abbey is in financial disrepair, alack! The Grantham family will be reduced to eating quail twizzlers and may have to fire the over-under-over butler, God forbid! But never fear, the household staff have concocted a plan to raise funds by appearing on a variety of contemporary television shows.
This is the premise for Luke Kempner’s one man show, The Only Way is Downton. Both the writer and sole performer, Kempner is a pocket rocket stocked full of mimicry gunpowder. The story is ridiculous, obviously, but that’s just par for the course when your finest impersonations are the cast of Downton, Dermot O’Leary, John Bishop, Bruno Tonioli and Mel & Sue.
Andy Murray’s lugubrious ‘enthusiasm’ is delightful and spot on, his Dowager Countess/Maggie Smith is consistently brilliant, and Mel & Sue’s “we went to Cambridge in case you forgot” food-pun-laden introduction to the Great British Bake Off is another highlight. A fluid (albeit absurd) storyline and some smart topical humour complete the set.
If you’re not au fait with either Downton or reality television then some of the gags might be lost on you, but with upwards of 20 characters to choose from, Kempner proves he’s no one-impersonation pony. He’s also a talented singer, as his brilliant foray into Downton: The Musical demonstrates.
The quibble? With the intimacy (the studio is wonderfully tiny), informal approach and production values of a fringe endeavour (it was a sell-out at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe), the West End price tag of £20-£30 seems a little bit steep. But where else do you get to hear the Dowager Countess discuss her vajazzle with Tom Daley?