Brief Edinburgh Encounter With Ö Denise Van Outen
Date: 6 August 2009Denise Van Outen
is one of the biggest names in Edinburgh this year. She makes her Fringe debut in Blondes
at the Udderbelly. Part cabaret, part theatre, part stand-up, the new one-woman show pays tribute to angel-haired divas from Mae West, Marilyn and Madonna through to Dusty, Doris Day and Duffy.
Since her days presenting The Big Breakfast, Van Outen has become a household name in the UK from her myriad TV credits on the likes of Something for the Weekend, Who Dares Sings and as a judge on musical casting competitions Any Dream Will Do (through which she met her now-husband, winner and subsequent Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat star Lee Mead) and Iíd Do Anything. Her US television credits include Grease: Youíre the One That I Want.
On stage herself, Van Outenís West End musical credits include Chicago (which she also starred in on Broadway), Tell Me on a Sunday and last yearís Rent: Remixed, while her earlier credits included A Slice of Saturday Night, Les Miserables, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Stop the World.
Blondes (listed in the Fringe programme as Basildon Blonde) is written by Jackie Clune and directed by Clarke Peters and runs from 6 to 31 August at the Udderbelly in Bristo Square as part of the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
How did Blondes come about?
Iíd been toying with the idea of doing another one woman show for a couple of years, because I had such a good time doing Tell Me on a Sunday
. Then a few months back I was reading an article by Jackie Clune
, who I worked with on that show, and it reminded me of her great humour and brilliant writing. So I met up with Jackie for lunch at the Ivy - very showbiz! - and was telling her about an idea I'd had for a show celebrating iconic blondes. Jackie then suggested that I did it in a personal context, telling stories about how I came to discover these women and why they mean so much to me.
How would you describe the show?
In terms of style, itís a piece of theatre thatís got a bit of audience participation; I hate to say stand-up, because Iím not doing stand-up, though it is a comedy and hopefully it will make people laugh. Itís a feel-good show and itís got some great songs in it, most of which the audience will know Ė and they're more than welcome to join in with me if they want!
Who's your ultimate blonde?
People always ask me who I identify as my favourite blonde, but there are different elements to each one, from Dolly through to Duffy. That said though, I think the main thing I've discovered through my research for the show is that we blondes all have certain things in common: we all go to extremes and we all love the attention that being blonde grants us Ė we're all complete attention seekers!
I did actually go red for a short period of time because I wanted to get away from the blonde thing, in terms of my public perception. But now when I look back, it never suited me. I just wasn't a 'red-headed woman' Ė I'm blonde through and through and whatever that may mean to various people, let it be.
How does it feel to be premiering the show at the Fringe?
I'm very excited about taking the show to Edinburgh. I've been to the city many times, but I've never actually been to the festival before, so I can't wait to experience the atmosphere. Iím planning to see as many shows as I can and embrace the whole experience. Everyone's been asking me if I'm nervous but I'm not really Ė partly because I feel like we've got a great little show to show off. And I can't wait to meet people who are just as excited about their projects as I am about mine.
What are you plans for the show after the Edinburgh?
I'd like to bring Blondes to London, but I'd also like to tour with it. The whole reason I wanted to do it was because I liked the idea of going out and about with it; touring's something I haven't yet done and I think it'd be great.
I understand you're also running a masterclass for young people?
Yes, immediately after the festival, I'm coming back to London to run an Alliance & Leicester masterclass, offering advice to young people on how to get into the entertainment industry. I've been working professionally since I left school, so I feel thereís a lot of advice I can pass on. And hopefully, being fresh from the Edinburgh experience, Iíll have another string to the bow and be able to share my experiences of that as well.
What kind of things will you be telling them?
My general advice for people looking to break into the industry is always to go out and try to get direct experience - get out there and meet as many people as you can. And one thing I can promise the young people that do this masterclass is that they will leave with a level of knowledge and confidence that most people couldnít get anywhere else, even at university; I can tell them first-hand what to expect.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
My mentor at theatre school was Sylvia Young, and to this day she's still the person I turn to if I need advice about the industry. She always said to me: ďthe most important thing is to be nice to people, be a team player and work for/with the team.Ē That's something I've always tried to maintain because people that I worked with who were runners ten years ago may now be running the networks, and people donít forget. Thatís one of the key pieces of advice that Iíve always tried to apply - just always be nice to everybody.
Where would you like to be in ten years' time?
Well, hopefully by then Iíll have a nice family. So, splitting my time between being a mother and, I donít know, there are all sorts of possibilities work-wise. I hope to be slightly more involved on the creative side, but I want to keep doing all of it - stage, TV, everything. As long as people employ me, Iíll likely go along with it!
- Denise Van Outen was speaking to Theo Bosanquet
Blondes is at the Udderbelly in Udderbelly's Pasture from 6 to 31 August. For a chance to win a place on Denise Van Outen's Alliance & Leicester masterclass, visit www.prem21.co.uk.