A quick chat with… designer Robert Kemp

Robert Kemp is a multi-award winning stage designer who has worked on productions with Opera Australia, Bell Shakespeare, Belvoir, Queensland Theatre Company, the State Theatre Company of South Australia, Sydney Theatre Company, Griffin Theatre, and Australian Theatre for Young People. Presently, he is working on bringing The Magic Flute to Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres. 

Robert Kemp
Robert Kemp

We asked Robert 20 questions in the lead-up to the show’s Riverside debut, because who doesn’t want to try to get inside the mind of a set designer?!

What’s your name, and what do you do?

Robert Kemp and I design sets and costumes for opera and theatre.

What was your first job in the industry?

Making 1:25 scale set models for the designer Brian Thomson.

Who is your career hero?

The German stage designer Karl-Ernst Hermann.


What is your go-to shower song?

I NEVER sing in the shower!


What is it about opera that speaks to you?

The explosive mix of sublime music and drama.

The Magic Flute at Riverside Theatres - with design by Robert Kemp.
The Magic Flute at Riverside Theatres – with design by Robert Kemp. Image by Albert Comper.

Windows or MAC?

MAC.


Favourite food?

Bill Conway’s chocolate and Cointreau souffle (Salsa Bar and Grill Port Douglas).


Best party trick?

Not turning up.


What would be the first five songs you put on an about me ‘mix-tape’ playlist?

“I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” – my father,  “Little Egypt” – Elvis Presley,  “Baker Street” – Gerry Rafferty,  “Symphony No 3” – Gorecki, “It’s a Wonderful World” – Louis Armstrong.

What is the best thing about theatre design in Australia?

Slaving to keep within progressively shrinking budgets.


What’s the worst thing about theatre design in Australia?

Slaving to keep within progressively shrinking budgets.


Name one moment when you looked around, breathed happily and felt content.

The morning after my partner and I moved into the house we built in the amazing Daintree Rainforest.


Where is the most interesting place you have travelled?

Myanmar.


Where do you see yourself in five years?

Reclining in a business class flatbed on my way to anywhere.


What’s your life motto?

It’s possible!


What’s your favourite post-show snack?

The slice of cucumber floating in a Hendrik’s gin and tonic.


What’s your biggest phobia?

Anything sharp pointed at me.


Whose advice do you always take?

That of Josh who services my two chain saws.


Describe your current project.

Raising a stellar crop of okra in my veggie garden.

(Find out more about his other project, Michael Gow’s adaptation of The Magic Flute at Riverside, here!)

Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and is the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

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