I first encountered Luke Kempner on YouTube several months ago - and was impressed by his short videos showcasing his impersonations of various people. Of course, the video that really brought him to the attention of the internet masses was his Downton skit - centered on Thomas Barrow and the scandal of the salt and pepper pots.
Last summer, he expanded on this short clip to produce a successful Edinburgh Fringe show - and this has been further developed into a full length piece which started a extensive tour of the country in Oxford this weekend.
Now there is no doubting that this is a fun evening out. Kempner has a very winning way about him and generates a lot of genuine laughter from an engaged audience. My issue with the show is the material itself. Rather than focusing solely on Downton Abbey, Kempner has expanded the world to include everything from Great British Bake Off to X Factor and a lot more. Whilst this will not please the purist, it does bring plenty of scope for fun.
However, it is always a concern when an impressionist has to announce who they are presenting - it shows that they aren't absolutely confident that the audience will be able to work out who it is supposed to be, and sadly, Kempner's script is littered with this from start to finish. He is a talented performer but his impressions are not always strong enough to render the characters immediately recognisable.
He is, thankfully, much stronger when it comes to the central Downton characters. He has found a series of vocal and physical traits that allow him to switch effortlessly between several characters in each scene.
I think that the script will improve as the tour continues and the individual impressions will strengthen. But even as it stands, it is a fun night out that will send you home with a smile on your face. The aim is eventually to transfer to the West End - where I am certain it will find a ready audience.