Divas at the Deli

When 'The Diva in Me' was showcased at this year's Brighton Festival it caused a storm!

A full house, a standing ovation, an Argus Angel Award and a nomination for Best Actress - it was clear that this was no ordinary play.

Now the Diva returns with a full production premiere at the Pavilion Theatre this December........but who is the Diva and where did this funny, moving, sharply observed play come from?

The answer is Fiveways! Playwright Charlotte Jones, actress Philippa Stanton and producer Judith Hibberd are all Fiveways residents and it was over coffees and quiche at the Fiveways Deli that The Diva was born.

Charlotte Jones picks up the story: "For many of us the Fiveways Deli is something of a haven. Philippa and I used to meet on a Friday after dropping off the kids and we'd both have a latte then try to resist the almond croissants. We spent a year or so doing this during which time Phil suffered a very painful separation from her husband. The thing about Phil is that she is one of the most entertaining people I know (as well as a wonderful mimic), so her tales of woe were never cumbersome or self-pitying. Before I had children I had a career as a playwright- I had seven plays on in London and the West End, even Broadway- but after children I had rather retreated from the theatre, preferring to write for TV and radio and juggle my writing with my parenting duties. But there was something in Phil's story and her talents as a performer that made me want to write a biographical piece for her. One of the most thrilling aspects of her talents is her ability to impersonate lots of female divas: Garland, Bassey, Piaf are her stock-in-trades but we would sit in the cafe and I would say, "Can you do Susan Boyle? What about Amy Winehouse? Have you ever tried Florence and the Machine?" Invariably she could and there would follow an uncanny rendition of the diva in question. There seemed to me an interesting gap between the lives of the divas that Phil could impersonate and her own life; between her own showbizzy aspirations as a child and the way her life had turned out. The point of the piece seemed to be- we can't all be divas- but we can find the glories of being ordinary, sitting in the deli, doing the school run, being parents - celebrity isn't everything! We had a try-out during the May Festival- and I have to say it was my most magical night in the theatre. Phil's story and her extraordinary performance moved the audience- the standing ovation went on and on and she stood there looking completely bewildered by the response. It's a brave performance- funny and vulnerable and open hearted as well as technically stunning and it's great to have this opportunity to do it again at Christmas.

We still meet every Friday in the cafe and I have since written another play with a very Brighton theme, having re-found my love for theatre. I don't know what Julie puts in her almond croissants but she's helped me find my voice again!

Philippa continues: "I feel very humbled and privileged that Charlotte somehow saw through my tears and incessant talking about my divorce! I lived for our Friday coffee mornings, they kept me going! Charlotte recognised that there was actually a strong person inside me who was going to get through it all. The Diva in Me has been a gift which excites me, makes me laugh and utterly amazes me!

A brilliant, brilliant play has been written for me and sometimes I just can't quite believe it! I continue to do the ordinary things, the school run, buying my bread at Raven's, popping to the Co-op, chatting at the florists, just getting on with life ...... Charlotte's play celebrates all those things as well as the moments of triumph and of desolation we all have. A big part of this show is about me and my Dad, who died last year, and every time I read the script he is alive again: mad things he used to say have been immortalised, and for an hour on stage it somehow feels like he's really there.

This is an uplifting play about life, my life and I couldn't ask for more!"

Producer Judith Hibberd is delighted by ‘The Diva's' success especially as a Spring 2011 tour has just been announced, but her advice is to get your tickets now and see The Diva in Me in the town where it was born - our very own Brighton!

Brighton Dome, Pavilion Theatre
Wed 15 - Sat 18 Dec, 8pm
Tickets: £10 (£8 concessions)
Book by Phone: 01273 709 709
Online: www.brightondome.org
In person: Ticket Office, 29 New Road, Brighton, BN1 1UG Mon-Sat, 10am - 6pm
Special Group Offers:
Book for 6 - 7 and receive a FREE bottle of house wine (worth £12.50)
Book for 8-19 and get a FREE bottle of rosé prosecco (worth £17.50)

Posted: 30th of November 2010