Out and About
Upside Downton is one-person stand-up comedy show in Toronto that’s a parody of a popular UK based television show Downton Abbey. The Edwardian-era period-piece series began late 2010 in the UK, and was broadcast on PBS this side of the pond starting early 2011. It depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants, which sounds like it could be parody ridden. It was recently announced that the 2015/16 series will be the last, so one could say the timing of this show is somewhat appropriate as well.
Luke Kempner is known as the man of a thousand voices. His impressions of celebrities are spot on, and his satirical take on them adds another dimension. When Downton Abbey first became a popular sensation, Luke made a YouTube video in which he portrayed 12 of the show’s main characters. It became a massive hit and led to producer James Seabright commissioning Luke to create a stage show based on his impressions that premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The current production touches down at Toronto’s downton Panasonic Theatre on Yonge Street, after a successful and lengthy run in London’s West End, and an extensive US tour. The estate is on the brink of financial ruin – yes, again! To complicate matters, a wedding is announced – yes, again! This will only mean more expense, money that the Earl of Grantham just doesn’t have. As celebrities start appearing at the Abbey, cultures clash and eras hilariously collide in this brilliant new parody, which takes in many other popular TV shows and familiar modern voices.
It’s to be assumed that most in the audience are either fans of the television series, or have at least heard of it and seen a few episodes. As Kempner “introduces” each character, there are moans and giggles when they “appear” on stage. Try and visualize this as the one person show it is. In fact, Kempner goes back and forth between several dozen characters not only from the show, but from current day pop culture as well. He often reminds the audience to remember “this is 1912”. This continues for the next 70 minutes non-stop.
For those that happen to go to the show knowing nothing at all about Downton Abbey, it’s fairly easy to follow along with the story line, which is basically Mrs. Crawley and Thomas Barrow having eyes for the same man…that man being none other than Daniel Radcliffe! The elder Mrs. Crawley is dating the younger Radcliffe, while Barrow just lusts openly for his man. In order to pay for the upcoming extravagant wedding (between Crawley and Radcliffe) several of the characters try an assortment of ways to make money, most being current television shows such as Who Wants To Be a Millionaire and Jeopardy. The exception is valet John Bates who suggests robbing banks or selling meth, one of many drug references and sexual innuendos that often prompted Kempner to pause and wait for the audience to catch up, which most never did.
Toward the end Kempner gives his most stunning performance, when a suggestion by one of the staff is made to make Downton Abbey into a musical. Kempner’s strong acting skills and powerful vocals carry him through this scene with what seems the greatest of ease. Finally wedding day is here, and who else would be best to preside over the marriage than Sir Ian McKellen, who is actually an ordained Minister in real life. Invited guests include the likes of Lord and Lady Gaga, and other names worthy of such parody.
The story comes to an end, just as the series does, leaving audiences wondering “what next’? There are rumours that Thomas will find someone to marry on the show…but remember this is 1912! So either way, a fan of the show, or a fan of stage and comedy, this one person show is quite unique and not to be missed.
UPSIDE DOWNTON – The Panasonic Theatre – 651 Yonge St, Toronto, (416) 872-1212
On stage until October 18, 2015. Starting at $25.00, Tickets 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333
Written and performed by Luke Kempner, and directed by Owen Lewis.
Book a matinee performance and enjoy complimentary “Afternoon Tea” of scones and tea served 30 minutes before the show.
YOU COULD WIN A TRIP TO LONDON, UK!
Book the Sunday, October 4 evening performance and participate in a”Fancy Dress Party”. Dress in the costume of your favourite Downton character. Luke Kempner will choose the best costume and the winner will receive Air Canada airfare for two to London, UK.
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.