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Fascinating Aida star still gets stage fright
Published 10/02/14

DILLIE KEAN is not the kind of woman who minces her words. One of the stars of song and comedy trio Fascinating Aida, she has been in many shows in her long career, including a six-week stint in a Dublin theatre of the seminal feminist work, The Vagina Monologues. But despite being an independent career woman, she’s not a fan of the show.

“It’s extremely funny, and there’s a kind of magic to it,” she says. “But otherwise it’s a meretricious piece of old tripe. I did it every night for six weeks and I never discovered hidden depths to it.

“It’s very funny and it’s very of its time. It was dangerous then talking about the vagina and all that, but there’s nothing more to it than that. It’s not a great piece of theatre.”

Take that! The straight-talking, no-nonsense actress and comedienne has spoken.

She is equally blunt when asked about who has influenced her in her main work — writing, singing and playing piano for the award-winning trio, which also stars Adele Anderson and Liza Pulman, who bring their latest show, Charm Offensive, to the Hexagon on February 28.

“There are German people who inspired me, but you won’t have heard of them,” she says. “I’ve never been inspired by American or British people, with the probable exception of NoŰl Coward.”

However one woman who has inspired her — at least to write one song — was her mother, Irish woman Miriam from County Kerry.

“Our new show is full of old songs and quite a lot of new ones,” she says. “It’s quite a personal show. We each get to reveal a bit about ourselves. It’s a bit of a departure from our usual all-star shows.

“I am going to reveal something about the loss of my mother. Adele sings a song about gender re-assignment, and Liza sings a song about two people — divorcÚs — dating when they are over 40. They are all very personal for us.

“My song is called Look Mummy, No Hands. It starts with a little girl on a roundabout and then goes on to a teenager saying, ‘Lay off, I can do things by myself’. But when your mother is gone you really would quite like a hand.

“My mother and I didn’t have a great relationship. She died 14 years ago and the song is about the mother I never had.”

Dillie founded Fascinating Aida in 1983 and since then they have played in hundreds of venues, both in the UK and abroad, including London seasons at the Donmar Warehouse and the Lyric, Hammersmith, and a tour of Australia which included a month-long stint at the Sydney Opera House.

Their most famous song is probably Cheap Flights, which has had more than 10 million hits on YouTube, while their latest internet hit is Song For Teachers, about the horrors of Ofsted inspections, which includes a very witty line about the Education Minister being “an utter Jeremy Hunt”.

“We’ve been doing it for over 30 years, but we’ve taken five years off here and there,” says Dillie. “We would have killed each other otherwise. But we do like each other, even socially.”

Dillie was brought up in Portsmouth which she loved — “It had four miles of beach, lovely for cycling. What more could a child want? And there were sailors, who taught me naughty words.” But now she lives in a farmhouse near Bicester with a labrador, two terriers, four chickens, horses, and the latest additions, two donkeys, mother and daughter, called Molly and Dolly. However, no matter how much she loves her homestead, she loves equally being on the road. She says: “I think it’s quite exciting to write songs and sing them in front of a lot of strangers. Exciting and terrifying. I have done a few plays that I’ve enjoyed, but I love Fascinating Aida. If I had to give it up I’d have itchy feet.”

Fascinating Aida are at the Hexagon on Friday, February 28. Box office: 0118 960 6060 or www.readingarts.co.uk

PUBLISHED 10/02/14

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