The King of Shock 'n' Roll: Rob Kemp is the Elvis Dead
- Brian Donaldson
- 11 July 2018
The Elvis Dead earned Rob Kemp plaudits and prizes for his cult comedy hit at last year's Fringe. While aiming not to be pigeonholed, the chainsaw is staying on for now
'I'm looking at it now and thinking "this is a silly idea".' Rob Kemp is talking about Wheel of Shows, his all-new hour for this year's Fringe, but he could so easily be reflecting back on his early feelings towards . For that show, Kemp reworked Elvis songs to fit the plot of The Evil Dead 2 while wielding a mock chainsaw as scenes from the comedically gory movie played on screen behind him.
It may have had the classic hallmark of 'the things you come up with during a long night in the pub', but The Elvis Dead proved to be the sleeper cult hit from last year's Fringe with a run at Monkey Barrel that gained a steady reputation, great reviews and an increasingly hardcore fanbase. Having ended the festival by winning a Malcolm Hardee Award and earning a nomination for Best Newcomer in the Edinburgh Comedy Awards, this Examinations Officer at a Walsall school (he handed his notice in a few months back but is still on call as a consultant) is back with the show that got him noticed.
'People liked it and I'm very proud of it, but I'm not actually a musical act,' Kemp insists. 'I did a thing because no one was looking at me. It was a show that I knew I'd enjoy doing regardless, so it's really odd to have gone from this thing where it's me titting around to having lots of people coming to see it in Edinburgh.'
On the back of that success, Kemp was invited to do the show at the House of Horrors Festival in Germany, followed by a run at London's Soho Theatre. He has tried to engender interest in Bruce Campbell, the iconic actor of The Evil Dead films who Kemp effectively plays on stage, to come and see the show. 'If I get tweeted after a show, people tag him in as well, so he's probably sick to death of it. I did go to a book signing in London and I just said to his face that his work inspired me and that I was doing this show and that I'd be honoured if he came to see it. He gave me a really polite "no". So, he hasn't seen it yet, but if I ever make it to Vegas … '
Inevitably, people have been throwing in their tuppenceworth for suggestions to mash up more movies and music. How about the tale of two Russian pop singers and a classic vampire legend (NosferaTatu)? Or The Fab Four with Tim Burton's obnoxious ghost (BeatlesJuice)? Or East Kilbride's post-punk band and Leatherface (The Jesus And Mary Chain Saw Massacre)? At the moment, he seems most intrigued by The Thing White Duke, which would merge the very icky 1982 John Carpenter horror with David Bowie's ever-altering image, a theme that fits with the film's concept of assimilating parasites.
Kemp is putting his feelings into Wheel of Shows about the direction in which his comedy career is going. 'The idea is about me trying to follow up a surprisingly successful show without letting people's expectations down but also not putting myself into a box. It's about me not just being known as the singing movie guy.'
Rob Kemp: The Elvis Dead, Pleasance Courtyard, Pleasance, 0131 556 6550, 4–25 Aug (not 6 & 7, 13 & 14, 20 & 21), 10.20pm, £10–£12 (£9–£11). Previews 1–3 Aug, £7.