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Sean Kempton: ‘Doing my first solo show feels really epic’

Sean Kempton Sean Kempton

After starting his career in acting, Kempton trained in circus, going on to perform worldwide with companies such as Cirque du Soleil. He tells Georgia Snow about staging his first solo show in Edinburgh this year.

How are you finding the experience of your first solo show?

I’m doing it by myself, so it feels really epic. Artists are not natural producers – I’m not used to working out all that stuff. I’m either attached to a company or I’m doing shows for a venue that has people who do it, so it’s a steep learning curve.

Why did you want to do a solo show?

I’ve been touring abroad with these mega-companies for about 16 years so it’s a good way of entering myself back into the market and saying, “This is who I am, what I do.” I also wanted to do something that was intimate and personal to me. My theatre and circus training make up a big part of it: there’s a lot of movement, dance and mime. I have a tap that forever dribbles ideas and I have to empty that out, so it’s cathartic as well. I wanted to challenge myself and change the clown form.

Do you feel a need to reinvent the form?

This contemporary clown wave is rather new – it’s a trendy form. It’s the same approach I had with circus, I’m just curious to see how my acting worked with my circus context and clowning. We sit in an uneasy area where we’re not necessarily a clown, but not theatre – it’s a hybrid thing. I also wanted the challenge of being very physical in the shows I do.

What is your training history?

I trained as an actor at Rose Bruford. They had a combined course in which they gave us traditional theatre training but also skills such as devising and street theatre. But I found myself doing quite straight work after that: Mamet and Hare, those kinds of shows. When the Millennium Dome was built, they wanted to train people in circus for a year and I was curious. My curiosity led me that way and then I trained as a circus performer, so I now have a combination of theatre, aerial and circus skills.

You have recently started teaching. What has that been like?

Contemporary circus in England is still very young, so while I’ve been doing it there has been a huge revolution. The number of opportunities, the awareness of what the work is and how it can be have changed. People are seeing new ways of doing it. As a teacher, I find that really exciting – especially coming from a theatre background. It’s fun to provoke people. I get very invested in it – when teaching, it’s important that I learn as much as the people that I teach.

CV: Sean Kempton

Training: Rose Bruford College (graduated 1994), National Centre for Circus Arts (1998-2000)
First professional role: Fluently Speaking Birds, Travelling Light (1994)
Agent: None

Stuff runs at Assembly George Square Theatre, August 4-14 and 16-29

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