ABOUT KELLY BURKE
Kelly trained as an actress at RADA and has spent the past fourteen years as a writer, theatre-maker, and dramaturg. Her work has been performed everywhere from the West End to Off-Broadway, and she's been a finalist for the OffWestEnd Award.
Kelly's preoccupations are with the obstruction of women's voices, how voices (both the literal and metaphorical kind) accrue power, and where the possibilities for disruption lie. She wrote her MA dissertation on queerness and voice, and is increasingly curious about where voice begins to trouble the boundaries of the self-contained body and question the distinctions between (or even the existence of) individuals.
Check out some of her shows and short film experiments below.
Zelda Sayre is the belle of Alabama, the outrageous good-time girl who captures the heart – and imagination – of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald.Their life together is one great party, from the madness of Jazz Age New York to the gin-soaked glamour of the Riviera. Then Zelda takes up writing herself — and more than her marriage begins to crack up...
A favourite of critics and audiences alike, ZELDA is about the thwarted ambition and irrepressible creativity of painter, dancer, and writer Zelda Fitzgerald. The show has played everywhere from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to the West End, earning rave reviews and an OffWestEnd Award nomination. Zelda was most recently seen in a salon performance at L'Air Arts, Paris.
Here's what the press have said:
'An outstanding piece about the agonies of art and the burdens of love.'
WHATS ON STAGE
'Burke is a captivating presence. Her intelligent performance makes Zelda beguiling - positioned on the edge of sanity with admirable restraint. The end arrives with a painful enforcement of the costly price Zelda paid for her life with the great man Fitzgerald. This is a carefully layered piece, superbly performed, that will stay with you far longer than its hour-long duration.'
'Witty, thoughtful and full of subtle nuances, this play about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife is not to be missed. Kelly Burke’s performance as Zelda is a tour de force — enthralling. Burke effortlessly creates this attractive, intelligent heroine, making her sympathetic, enigmatic and engaging in equal measure. Brilliantly written, smoothly staged and superbly acted, Zelda is one of the best hours you will spend this festival.'
'This is a tragic story of excess, unhappiness and wasted potential. Burke plays it with poignant charisma in a beautifully modulated production.'
'Kelly Burke is truly stunning, the perfect Zelda: her accent is impeccable, her smile is genuine and her wild and torrid emotions fill the room, never once cracking or seeming false under the scrutiny of the close-up audience. Between Burke's brilliant performance and the vivacity of the direction, it is a beautiful play to watch.'
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE
'Vivid and fascinating, performed with zestful brilliance.'
'There is something rare to be admired in the way Burke presents Zelda. This is not a crazed and silly woman, but a creature whose madness is powerfully convincing and deeply attractive. When, towards the end of the piece, Zelda remarks that on arrival at the hospital she didn’t want to get rid of a vase of red roses because they looked ‘so stern that they might shout at her’ the comment, nonsensical as it seems, makes perfect sense. This is partly because Burke gives a pitch-perfect performance as Zelda, and partly because the material she has amassed brings us to a real understanding of her subject.'
An American nobody, just on the wrong side of young, runs off to Paris to escape the Depression. When she finds herself a sweet Frenchman and a gig in a cheap cabaret, she thinks she’s cheated fate —
but the City of Light has a few tricks up its sleeve.
LOVE FOR SALE is a cabaret-play celebrating the music of the 1930s and composers from Cole Porter to Kurt Weill. The show was developed site-specifically for Wilton’s Music Hall. It played there to sold-out houses before moving on to the St James Studio, the Edinburgh Fringe — and Off-Broadway, where it spent six weeks on TimeOut's list of 'Top 10 Things to Do in New York'.
'A heartfelt and stylish show which is as intelligent as it is decadent.'
'Kelly Burke seems to have come to life from a Henry Miller novel and walked straight onto the set of Casablanca. She even has her very own Sam. In this cheap bar with a “cheap pianist” we have an intimate conversation about the human heart — and Burke’s talent is spectacular.'
'Smoky, spiky and intelligently textured.'
TIME OUT Critic's Pick
Natalie Barney’s Last Salon explores the sensational life of the Parisian-American icon whose legendary literary salon gave birth to Modernism, and whose Sapphic affairs scandalised polite society.
NATALIE BARNEY'S LAST SALON was commissioned and performed as a solo show, as part of the Notes to the Forgotten She-Wolves series at Shakespeare's Globe in February 2020. It explores the fascinating life of writer and salonniere Natalie Clifford Barney who was living an unapologetically lesbian and unapologetically polyamorous life one hundred and twenty years ago. Through her literary salon, she brought women writers like Colette and Gertrude Stein to public attention, and shaped the movement that would become literary Modernism.
During the pandemic, Reading Fringe Digital re-commissioned the play as an audio drama. It was directed by Fiona Leonard, with Kelly as Natalie, Lucy Newman-Williams as Romaine Brooks, and Augustina Seymour as Dolly Wilde.
LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT
'Part audiobook, part drama and part inspirational guide, Burke’s script is beautifully quotable and romantic. Austen-esque and heightened in delivery, this piece is a delight as a listener.'
A YOUNGER THEATRE
Currently in development...
A WHALE IS ITS OWN HOUSE is a play about queer diaspora and urban precarity, currently in talks with Jermyn St Theatre for a 2024 production.
APOSTROPHE is a pandemic experiment in glitch feminism and text collage, a mash-up of 'The Yellow Wallpaper' and Ingeborg Bachmann's Malina. It questions who is speaking when we speak, and explores the intersection between absence, presence, and subversion.
ALL THE DEAD STARS was a writing commission from Blue Goat Theatre, made in collaboration with choreographer Aaron Samuel Davies and composer Augustin Gressier. It's a piece about the nature of distance, love, space-time... and pigeons.