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Fascinating Aida’s Dillie Keane interviewed

PUBLISHED: 13:14 19 February 2016 | UPDATED: 13:14 19 February 2016

Fascinating Aida's Dillie Keane. Photo: Steve Ullathorne

Fascinating Aida's Dillie Keane. Photo: Steve Ullathorne

(C)2015 steve ullathorne, all rights reserved

Dillie Keane stops by Chelmsford’s Civic Theatre tomorrow. You’ll have seen her perform with her gal pals from British comedy group Fascinating Aida, but now you can see founding member Keane on a rare short break from the group.

Dillie and her Fascinating Aida companions Adèle Anderson and Liza PulmanDillie and her Fascinating Aida companions Adèle Anderson and Liza Pulman

Written by her and fellow Fascinating Aida member Adèle Anderson, she debuted the show at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Complete with new tunes and old favourites about love and utter wickedness, she will break your heart, mend it again and send it to the cleaners for pressing.

Having studied music at Trinity College, Dublin and acting at LAMDA, Keane founded Fascinating Aida in 1983, discovering her now long-term writing partner Anderson who joined in 1984. With the trio she has enjoyed 30 years of success, playing countless tours around the globe.

She answered a few questions for Event...

How would you sum up your solo show?

It’s a lifetime distilled into a cabaret show. It’s quite moving and quite funny – well, very funny at times – and it’s a lifetime of looking for love. It’s songs with stories and, unlike Fascinating Aida which more takes pot shots at things, this is a very personal journey. Although I hate to use the word journey, it sounds like I’m about to say “I’ll reach out” in a minute. But it’s my story through song, some very old songs and one or two that are brand new.

What has influenced your song choices for the show?

They chose themselves. It was such an easy show to put together and it was a lovely show to put together too, because I just sort of shook everything and it all fell into place.

What made you decide to go it alone this time?

Adele (Anderson, who co-wrote the show) decided she wanted to go on holiday to North Korea and other things so we decided we’d have three months off from Fascinating Aida. But I’m not very good with time off; I don’t like it so I decided I’d do a solo show.

Then what happened is Adele was diagnosed with cancer and ended up in hospital instead of North Korea, so basically she had to take the rest of 2015 off and most of this year too until she gets fit and strong and clear and everything. I can only describe that as “a bugger” and my little solo show, which was only meant to occupy me for three months, has suddenly grown.

My producers loved it and said “we think you ought to do this more and people ought to see it because it’s a lovely show” so I’m taking it around the country and I’m taking it to New York, to a wonderful theatre complex called 59E59 on the Upper East Side.

You probably get asked this a lot but does the show mark the end of Fascinating Aida?

I hope not, no. It would be very hard to go on without Adele. We’ve been together for 32 years.

Is it lonely being on stage without Adele and Liza Pulman?

We’ve always had solo moments in a show so it’s fine, but what I did find odd was doing pantomime and not seeing the others backstage. It’s more than just about being on stage together – it’s about a whole life. Liza came to see the pantomime one night and it was such a relief to be in the dressing room with her.

How much of the show is scripted and how much will be ad-libbed?

It’s all scripted. I’m not an ad-libber by nature. I’ll ad-lib if something very funny happens or something occurs to me; of course I’ll throw something in. But often as not it’s a scripted show and as audience member I like to know that the guys I’m paying to see know what they’re doing. There are some brilliant improvisers out there but I’m not one of them and they are rare.

Do you encourage audience participation or forbid it?

It’s not that kind of show so I don’t have to forbid it or encourage it. There’s a little bit where I get people to simulate tap dancing but people aren’t usually tempted to participate. It’s very private and personal and if anybody wanted to join in then they’re at the wrong show.

How has the show evolved since you performed it at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

In Edinburgh you have to cut everything down to fit the 55-minute slot. So this is a longer show with an interval, which I like as well because you can create different moods and the theatres get a chance to sell drinks – which helps keep them open.

What’s the one thing you have to have with you when you’re on the road?

I suppose the obvious answer is make-up. The audience doesn’t want to look at me unmade-up – it’s a horrible sight.

And what do you have to have on your dressing room rider?

Nothing. I’m far too practical, as are my Fascinating Aida colleagues. The minute we realised we got charged for everything that’s on the rider we stopped having one. If you put a £40 bottle of champagne on there it’ll cost you £70 because they have to send someone to buy it, so I’d much rather bring my own. My only specification is that I have to have a lockable dressing room because I’ve been robbed too many times.

What are your pre and post show routines?

I’m not really particularly habit-formed. I put my make-up on, do my hair and go on stage, then I come off stage, take my make-up off and go to bed. It’s very boring. I have a phenomenally boring life.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?

Somebody once accused me of having an artichoke in my hair. I was most upset. It was a rather attractive flower on a clip and it looked lovely.

What do you hope audiences will take away from your solo show?

I’d like them to have the feeling of having had a really good evening and having spent their money wisely. That’s really important to me – that people have a really good time.

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