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Kemp, Lindsay (b. 1940?)  
page: 1  2  

A Midsummer Night's Dream

In 1984 Kemp and Celestino Coronado joined forces to make a film of Kemp's idiosyncratic stage production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which had premiered at London's Sadlers Wells theater a year earlier. Kemp played Puck--a perfect role for him, part Eros, part clown, part satyr--who is seen hovering in the air above the crossed lovers.

Visually eccentric and memorable, this film exemplifies Kemp's ability to reinvent Shakespeare, unearthing the play's haunting, darkly erotic, subconscious allusions. Fittingly, Kemp even claims to be descended from William Kemp, Shakespeare's clown.

In the film, the changeling boy (François Testory) comes to the fore as a resonant image of the hermaphrodite, lusted after with relish by Oberon (Michael Matou). Thus, the crossed lovers in an enchanted wood are no longer heterosexual, but homosexual. A Midsummer Night's Dream may be Kemp's most fully realized work, though it dispensed with much of Shakespeare's text and established its own parameters.

Kemp as Gender Illusionist

In 1991 Kemp performed a rare solo work in a production called The Onnagata (Japanese gender illusionists). The title refers to Japanese artists who devote themselves to being perceived as female. Long an admirer of these gender illusionists, Kemp studied the elaborate language of gestures in Japan with Sasae Onesuke and devised a "fantasy in kimonos" in which he revisited many of his earlier roles.

Kemp's Influence

Kemp has had a major influence on popular culture even though he has never himself achieved wide fame. For example, Kemp made a decisive mark on David Bowie, who was Kemp's student in the late 1960s. They toured together in a small show called Pierrot in Turquoise.

The visual imagery of Bowie's experimental stage persona Ziggy Stardust was given a boost by Kemp, who directed Bowie in his Rainbow rock theater production in 1972. This show incorporated mime and dance in a way not attempted before in rock and roll, but it has since been widely imitated.

The young singer and composer Kate Bush also fell under Kemp's spell. The influence of his gestures and dance style are apparent in her stage and video work. Kemp appeared in her 1994 film The Line, the Cross, the Curve.

Elements of Kemp's influence can also be detected in the work of such disparate artists as the British drag theater troupe Bloolips, dancer Michael Clark, and even club and performance artist Leigh Bowery.

Contemporary Kemp

Kemp and Company's most recent show, Dreamdances, features Kemp and two of his long-time dancer-collaborators, Nuria Moreno and Marco Berriel. A kind of "greatest hits" reconfigured for a company of three, Dreamdances presents highlights from some of Kemp's most definitive works, including Flowers, Salome, Nijinsky, and The Onnagata.

Kemp now lives in Rome teaching mime and directing operas. He remains the most quintessentially outrageous and openly homosexual man of the theater.

Kieron Devlin

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Burnside, Fiona. "Words Versus Gestures." Dance Journal 5.3b (Summer 1987): 16-17

Kemp, Lindsay. "The Onnagata." Sunday Telegraph (April 14, 1991): xiii.

Smith Rupert. "Lindsay Kemp." Guardian (January 30, 2002):,3604,641424,00.html

Wilms, Anno. Lindsay Kemp and Company. Derek Jarman, preface; David Haughton, intro. London: Gay Men's Press, 1987.


    Citation Information
    Author: Devlin, Kieron  
    Entry Title: Kemp, Lindsay  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated November 15, 2010  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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