Review: Signs of a Diva @ Axis Ballymun

'Signs of a Diva' takes place in Axis Ballymun tomorrow, Tuesday, February 18. [Image: Graeae]

The Irish tour of ‘Signs of a Diva’ launched in Axis Ballymun last night, February 18. [Image: Graeae]

Dublin’s wonderful Axis Theatre Ballymun kicked off the Irish tour of Signs of a Diva, produced by Graeae Theatre Company in London and in association with Arts & Disability Ireland. Scott De Buitléir went along to see the production’s first Irish performance

Written by: Nona Sheppard
Director: Jenny Sealey
Starring: Caroline Parker

The story behind the drama is simple, but very relatable: Sue is the lovely, but quiet, undertaker from Bingley Bridge. No-one knows she’s a Diva fanatic, until one day she is offered a cabaret spot at Harry’s Place. Overnight, Tammy Frascati is born and Sue finds herself hurtling to stardom and Las Vegas, signing the songs of her favourite divas; Billie Holiday, Dusty Springfield, Ella Fitzgerald & Gloria Gaynor. Just as success beckons, however, a handsome stranger pierces Sue’s heart. 

This understated production could quite easily be overlooked by some theatre-goers, but then they would be missing out on what is undoubtedly one of the unsung – or rather, unsigned – heroes of modern British theatre. Within a matter of minutes, Caroline Parker (Sue / Tammy) establishes a tangible warm rapport with her audience, putting them at ease. Regardless of whether or not the audience understands British Sign Language (or Irish Sign Language)  there is a beautiful fluidity of emotion to be found in her renditions of the songs featured. The scriptwriting is also flawless; poetic, funny, endearing and very moving. The set design, sound and lighting are also worth a mention; just enough to give your eyes (and ears) what they need to enjoy the play, but minimalist enough to let your imagination fill in the scene.

For a venue at the heart of the community, Axis Ballymun was a fantastic location to launch the Irish tour of Signs of a Diva, proving itself yet again as a jewel in Dublin’s cultural crown. If you missed it, however, fear not – the show will also visit Letterkenny, Ballina and Dundrum (in Dublin) over the coming days. Visit Graeae’s website for more details on tour dates.

Without a doubt, this play is one beautiful piece of British theatre that should not be missed.

5/5

About Scott De Buitléir

Scott De Buitléir is an author and poet from Dublin, Ireland. He is founder of EILE Magazine, a digital publication for the Irish LGBT community, and has published several works of poetry, non-fiction, and fiction. He lives in Cork with his partner.
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