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.


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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