Bowie’s Brunton Connection

Jan 14 2016 | By More

Brunton quest for Kemp’s panto request

A revelation by choreographer Lindsay Kemp that David Bowie turned down a part in a Musselburgh panto has left bosses at the Brunton theatre scratching their heads.

Apparently Kemp asked Bowie to appear in a Scottish production of Puss in Boots, but was turned down by the singer’s agent as the fee wasn’t high enough.

The Brunton Theatre. Photo: Thom Dibdin

The Brunton Theatre. Photo: Thom Dibdin

Kemp was the subject of an in-depth interview in the Guardian this week (12-Jan-2016), examining his pivotal role in Bowie’s career following Bowie’s death from cancer on Sunday. Kemp taught the singer much of his stagecraft and Bowie was attracted to the the performer’s Bohemian lifestyle in Sixties London.

Indeed, Bowie made his theatrical debut in late 1967, appearing in Kemp’s mime Pierrot in Turquoise. Bowie wrote and performed the music as well as co-staring as Cloud – alongside Kemp’s Pierrot, Jack Birkett’s Harlequin, and Annie Stainer’s Columbine.

After detailing their work together – Kemp directed and appeared in Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust show at the London Rainbow – he ends the interview with a few choice throwaway comments about productions which might have been but never were.

As Kemp recalls: “One Christmas, I asked him to play Puss in Boots in Musselburgh. His agent came back and said that £10 a week wasn’t really enough – could I get it up to £15? Management said no, we couldn’t. What Musselburgh missed!”


Although Kemp doesn’t say which year this was, the story is corroborated in Nicholas Pegg’s The Complete David Bowie, in the details of the various theatrical events in Bowie’s life in 1968.

Pegg says: “In the autumn, Lindsay Kemp invited David and Hermione Farthingale to join him in Scotland for a Christmas production of Puss In Boots; tragically, they turned him down.”

Unfortunately for the Brunton, it hadn’t been built yet in 1968 – it didn’t open until December 1970.

However the theatre’s manager Lesley Smith is determined to get to the bottom of the tale. She said: “The story of Musselburgh audiences missing out on seeing David Bowie perform locally in panto is certainly a fascinating one!

“Unfortunately in The Guardian article, Kemp doesn’t tell us when this was, and we can’t find evidence in our archives that The Brunton was the venue for the panto in question.

“If the Bowie biography is correct and this happened in 1968, it wouldn’t have been The Brunton as the building hadn’t been constructed. If anyone can shed further light on this, we’d love to hear about it!”

Anyone who has information (or memorabilia) on whether a pantomime was staged in Musselburgh in 1968 – particularly whether it was Puss in Boots directed by Lindsay Kemp – could help put Smith’s mind at rest and email her at:

Click on the image below to purchase The Complete David Bowie from Amazon:


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