Janie Dee On … Being a Diva at the DelfontDate: 24 August 2009
Janie Dee is a multi award-winning actress, most recently seen in the West End earlier this year starring in Alan Ayckbourn's Woman in Mind. It marked the latest in a number of collaborations with the playwright, including arguably the biggest hit of her career - her 1999 performance as an android in Ayckbourn’s Comic Potential, which earned her Best Actress trophies at the Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle and Laurence Olivier Awards.
She is also well known for her musical credits, which include Carousel (for which she won her first Olivier), My One and Only, Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, South Pacific and Mack and Mabel. She’s most recently been seen on the London stage in Donkeys’ Years, Shadowlands and, currently at the Open Air Theatre, Twelfth Night.
Having previously performed acclaimed cabaret shows at the Donmar and Shaw theatres, Dee is going solo once again as part of the Whatsonstage.com supported season of late-night concerts in the Prince of Wales’ lovingly restored Delfont Room bar. Previous performers in the season include Hannah Waddingham, Elena Roger and Lisa Donmall. Janie Dee – Diva at the Delfont is this Saturday (29 August 2009) at 11pm (doors 10.30pm).
Last time I did a cabaret night was four years ago at the Shaw, so what I’ve done for my evening at the Delfont Room is try to update what I did there. The show is a mixture of things that I know very well and bits and pieces I’ve picked up over the years from various writers like Ayckbourn and Pinter. I want to give people a real late-night laugh and make it a proper cabaret, a little bit naughty and fun. Mostly it’s been put together to give people surprises.
I really don't want to give away any particular songs or pieces that I'm doing, but all I'll say is that you won’t get what you’re expecting. If you want a singer from the West End do a bit of Sondheim, a bit of Gershwin, a bit of Porter - don’t come and see me!
I asked Alan (Ayckbourn) once when we were doing a ridiculous amount of work together, whether he'd like to direct a cabaret, as he has done for me previously. But what he did instead was take the songs I'd chosen and make up a story that they sat in. It was great, but I've changed the structure a bit since then because the piece had a fourth wall and I think it's very important that cabaret engages directly with its audience. A one-woman show with a fourth wall feels very lonely. A play doesn't usually allow you to step down and have a chat with your audience. Cabaret is difficult, it’s scary, but if you can bear it, if you can embrace it, it can be more enjoyable than anything else.
As far as other jobs are concerned at the moment I’m trying to be very strong and turn down work, which is extremely hard for me because I love working, not for the money but for the joy of going into a rehearsal room every day. But the truth is, for absolutely no money at all, I’ve said I want to produce a film of Woman in Mind, and to produce a film takes enormous amounts of time and energy. If I'm really going to do it I’ve got to put some time apart.
Alan has given me the rights for it and he said it’s because he trusts me. It’s obviously a huge honour but also a great responsibility. I’m absolutely terrified, I don’t mind telling you, and there’s a part of me that wants to go “actually, you know what, I just can’t do it” and just forget about it.
I have done bits of producing before, but I’m not a financial person, I’m crap where business is concerned but artistically I can usually get things together - and for me it’s only about the artistic potential. That’s probably good for the film, good for the end product, but not so good for keeping your head above water! But I'm absolutely convinced it will make a terrific film, as I said to Alan frequently during rehearsals.
Looking further ahead, in general I like to do new work. I’m very interested in new writing; the new ways, the new ideas of performing. I always consider everything I’m offered, and I’m not very good at turning things down, but the one thing I’m a stickler for is the writing. I don't like looking too far in to the future, although I do remember saying to a reporter a few years back that I'd love to play Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He printed it and they got in touch and offered me the job! So I'm tempted to make another similar statement of ambition but will resist on this occasion – I have enough projects to be getting on with.
Janie Dee – Diva at the Delfont is on for one night only this Saturday (29 August 2009) at 11pm. For more info, click here.