Luke Kempner: Judi Dench Broke My Heart

Judi Dench Broke My Heart is a farcical hour of spot-on impressions, loosely tied together with a basic premise: Luke Kempner is marrying Judi Dench, and the congregation has a few objections.

There’s clearly a lot of raw talent here, but the writing lacks the extra element

He begins with some observations about life as an impressionist. Kempner is an affable guy, and it’s promising - particularly a section on being asked to perform his job constantly at social events. A comparison to architecture goes down well: “Oh come on, draw us a house … I actually draw some houses meself!” Some of the weaker gags fall flat, but we’ll indulge them - we haven’t come here for stand-up.

Soon enough the real story is underway, and the scene is set: the day of the wedding. Kempner’s impression of his wife-to-be really is pitch-perfect, and master of ceremonies is an impressively rich and resonant Minister Ian McKellen. Dame Judi is quickly accused of infidelity, first by Tim Lovejoy from Sunday Brunch and then again by Bradley Walsh from The Chase - you get the feeling that Kempner watches a lot of daytime TV. Luckily best men Andy Murray and Tom Daley are on hand to help Luke work it all out. Murray is brilliantly observed: isn’t his mum called Judy? “…No, she’s called mum.” Daley’s got some pun heavy references to his Twitter followers (“speedophiles” among others), and Jeremy Kyle mistaking an OBE for an “oboe” is a great moment - but they can’t outweigh the quick descent into dad-humour, which elicits groans from the audience on several occasions.

For someone so talented at imitating other people, Kempner feels a little uneasy in his own stage persona. His gags about his previous career in musical theatre feel uncomfortable, and while the frequent renditions of songs from Les Miserables are beautifully sung, the reference feels stale.

Kempner needs something else to work with, or someone else to bounce off: you sense he’d write a brilliant panto, but there aren’t enough gems here to justify such a bitty show. It would benefit from a more ludicrous storyline to really send up the tenuousness of the connections; instead it feels hastily put together.

There’s clearly a lot of raw talent here, but the writing lacks the extra element which would make this more than a string of impressions linked by an insubstantial plot.

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The Blurb

Impressionist and star of The Only Way Is Downton, Luke Kempner, can't wait to marry Judi Dench. But has Britain's most celebrated thespian only been acting like she's in love? Will they be getting a honeymoon room with a view or is Luke's sky about to fall? Our hero is joined by a stellar cast of celebrities on a quest in the name of love. As seen on Murder in Successville (BBC Three), Luke Kempner's Impression of 2015 (ITV2) and Drunk History (Comedy Central). 'A remarkable tour-de-force' **** (Telegraph). 'Gloriously funny' **** (Independent).