Lindsay Kemp is an influential British dancer, actor, teacher, mime artist and choreographer who had a major impact on the Australian Theatre scene when his Company performed in Sydney and Melbourne in the 70s. He passed away in 2018.
After meeting music director Andrew Thomas Wilson at a cast party for "Joseph & the Amazing technicolour Dreamcoat" and spending a weekend jamming with Andrew at my flat in Manly, I was invited to join his internationally celebrated Lindsay Kemp Company and worked with this ensemble in Kemp's adaption of Jean Genet's "Flowers" at the Comedy and Her Majesties Theatres in Melbourne. I had been offered a part in the original Mad Max film just about to be shot through my agent Faith Martin, but it was then just a low budget film project with unknown stars, such as a fledgling Mel Gibson, so I turned down my opportunity to become an international film star to take on what was, at the time, the biggest "break" a young composer could have in Australia.
I went on to spend some months composing the musical score (in collaboration with Andrew Wilson) for the Oscar Wilde play "Salome", which we performed at the New Arts Cinema, Glebe, and which later went on on to a sell out season at the Roundhouse in London. The London Times described the music for this production as "thrilling".
The score was partly prepared quadrophonic tape, mixed at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music quadrophic studio, with myself performing a range of pseudo middle eastern music on my collection of exotic instruments with Andrew contributing then futuristic spaciousness on his huge Modular Moog. In the show itself I played a range of percussion instruments, though I had a cameo role playing "La Paloma" on a mandolin, at Lindsay's feet, in the court of Herod. I recall in pre-production Lindsay asking for "the Wings of the Angel of Death" to fly from the back of the theatre to the stage - a challenging sound cue - and one of the climaxes of the show, the Dance of the Seven Veils, was a mesmerising orgasmic dance extravanganza with eerie smashing glass sounds spinning in dizzy quadrophic spaciality around the theatre, as I bashed away enthusiastically on drums and cymbals.
I was the only "straight" guy in an ensemble of eccentric and gay theatrical divas, chosen for their stunning physical beauty and artistic abilities as dance/mim performers, at the very dawn of the Gay Revolution. My partner at the time, documentary film maker Nikki Ma, was working on the opulent costuming and I recall a hallucinogenic kaleidoscope of memories amidst a constant weird atmosphere from the cast's consumption of various mind altering substances. I was young and relatively innocent and it was an absolutely thrilling epsiode in my life. I spent much of my downtime time during rehearsals and later performances in a flat adjoing the theatre with the blind dancer Jack Birkett, or the Great Orlando. He was a charismatic performer with powerful singing voice. When working with Kemp in Italy in 1966, he began to lose his sight, attempting a variety of cures ranging from surgery to bee-stings. He nevertheless became entirely blind, but responded by growing more extreme in his performances and his persona. He passed in 2010. A huge personality, and a talented and delightfully funny man. Jack became a great friend at the time - and I remember how cast members would have to subtly point him towards the audience at times, as he groped around in his darkness, always stealing the show. I have some vivid memories of escorting Lindsay to theatre performances around Sydney in a tuxedo, including one celebrated night at the Sydney Opera House for a performance of a John Cage ballet, where I met my then experimental musical heroes John Cage & David Tudor.
Lindsay Kemp is also famous as a mentor to David Bowie, and first met David Bowie in the summer of 1967 and instructed him on the benefits of mime applied to any theatrical presentation. The Kemp - Bowie association together produced many new and exciting ideas and influences for the young David, who later remarked 'I owe it all to Lindsay' .