Luke Kempner’s one man mockery of Downton Abbey, TOWIE and a host of other Friday night telly fare sees him adopt 32 different characters in pursuit of the ultimate Downton parody. Racing between the Abbey and the X-factor with an intriguing if rather awkward cameo from Boris Becker, Kempner relates the story of that most finale-worthy of events, a wedding at Downton. This time, however, it’s not one of the Crawley sisters mincing up the aisle, but the dowager duchess Violet herself.
Unfortunately, while Kempner’s madcap blending of the show somehow manages to hang together extremely well, the crossover between the audiences of the various shows is fairly small – those that laughed at the subtle Downton parody were often lost in the more Essex-heavy sections and vice versa. The focus of the show is definitely Downton, however, so those that go along with a decent knowledge of Julian Fellowes’ money-spinner will laugh longest.
The majority of his impersonations are spot on – Mrs Patmore and Daisy are particularly well rendered – and his varying physicalities take him to just the right side of parody. It’s a shame his Dowager Duchess doesn’t quite capture Maggie Smith’s pinched portrayal given how central her character is, but his take on her one-liners is suitably acerbic. His Hugh Bonneville-style asides to the audience reminding them that ‘it is, after all, 1912’ perfectly encapsulates the campy, clunky contextualisation that Downton fans come to love.
Against this fantastically detailed and engaged ridicule, the broader jabs at real life figures sit a tad strangely, particularly the scenes featuring Tom Daley. While very funny, they do border on slandering a teenage boy who is decidedly not fictional. An Alan Carr impression inexplicably closes out proceedings without much explanation in what seems like a lazy way to throw in admittedly uncanny mimicry. Kempner is a very gifted performer, but a narrower focus would give him a much tighter show and arguably show his talents even more.