THE Diva in Me – one-person play performed at the Devonshire Park Theatre – was written by award-winning playwright Charlotte Jones specifically for actress Philippa Stanton, the ‘diva’ of the title.
Both are Brighton-based, where this emphatically professional production, directed by Gary Sefton, was critically acclaimed when first staged last year.
Whether the story is wholly biographical, Philippa plays Philippa, is not revealed.
But it seems likely considering the play’s provenance and Stanton’s own background, RADA-trained, a career in theatre, TV and film, plus an impressive singing voice.
In little over an hour, Philippa traces her life from a West Midlands guest-house run by her parents; being kicked out of the school choir; falling for a hopelessly gay Welshman; drama school; love and marriage to a Gene Kelly lookalike, which breaks down after he disappears to join a circus; the birth of a son; to her present life in a dilapidated apartment where she exists on toast from an exploding toaster and the lights fuse.
Woven into this agony-aunt scenario, is the funeral of her first love and the death of her father.
The constant theme, however, is her fantasy world of singing songs made famous by divas, in particular Judy Garland, but also Edith Piaf, Shirley Bassey, Eartha Kitt, Amy Winehouse and others, on a big stage.
Stanton’s ability to impersonate the range and sound of their voices, together with facial expressions and body language, is compelling.
With overtones of Jane Horrocks in ‘Little Voice’, this solo show is enhanced by musical director Zachary Dunbar’s unobtrusive keyboard playing at the rear of the stage, which keeps Philippa firmly on track to produce a truly virtuoso performance.
But why, many may wonder, did it take so long for this ‘diva’ to start performing karaoke in her local pub which is where, she admits in the closing scene, she finally finds her audience!