You’re best-known as an author and historian — so what are you doing in a one-woman show?

Well, most people won’t know that, before I became a writer, I was a performer and songwriter in fringe theatre, from 1979 until 1985. So, in fact, Trouser-Wearing Characters brings together everything I’ve done in my careers, from singing and writing original songs, to researching and relating stories of fascinating and quirky figures.

 

How did it come about, then?

The show’s origins began with an appearance I made last May, at Polari on the Southbank and, though it was a short set, the combination of comedy, history and song was a hit with the audience — and it was one of the easiest and best ideas I’ve ever had to develop a full-length show for this year’s Fringe.

 

Isn’t it rather unusual to see an author turning their hand to this sort of show?

It certainly is. In fact, I’m willing to chance my arm and say it’s the first original, one-woman cabaret-style musical show ever created and performed by a British author.


So it’s clearly different to an author reading from their books. What can audiences expect?

It’s a unique mixture of music, history and comedy. It combines stories, vignettes and songs (some self-penned), drawing on some of the eclectic ‘trouser-wearing characters’ I’ve written about — from 50s and 60s media star Nancy Spain to masquerader ‘Colonel’ Sir Victor Barker, camp cabaret star Douglas Byng to the legendary ‘f**king lady’ herself, witty and stylish actress Coral Browne. There are also cameo ‘appearances’ by the likes of Noel Coward, Marlene Dietrich and Vincent Price.


That’s an eclectic line-up.

I think the show has something for everyone, whether they enjoy showbiz-type anecdotes, real-life scandals or even just songs performed with banjoleles! I hope audiences will leave the theatre thinking, “I really enjoyed that”, but also “I never knew that!”’

 

Trouser-Wearing Characters, written and performed by Rose Collis and directed by Matt Thompson, is at the Marlborough Pub & Theatre, 4 Prince’s St, Brighton BN2 1RD on 3 May, 4 May, 7 May & 8 May at 7pm; 19 May and 20 May at 5pm.