by Nona Shepphard.

Theatre Royal Stratford East Gerry Raffles Square E15 1BN To 6 February.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat 6 February 3pm.
TICKETS: 0208 534 0310.

then Tour to 22 May 2010.
Runs 2hr One interval.
Review: Carole Woddis 29 January.

Signs and signing of a first-rate performance.
It would be all too easy to review Caroline Parker’s virtuoso solo performance in terms of disability. Parker is profoundly deaf and Signs of a Star Shaped Diva comes from Graeae, the 30-year-old company dedicated to making the arts accessible to all but who have also proved that physical or mental disability is no barrier to making Art.

There are times, here, though, when you simply forget such intellectual notions and just sit back and wallow in the beauty and enjoyable communality of it all.

Signs started out as Signs of a Diva at London’s Drill Hall. The hour-long show proved a revelation. Who would have thought signing songs could prove so powerful? Granted the singers were from the top drawer: Dusty Springfield, Ella Fitzgerald, Eartha Kitt, Dolly Parton and many more.

Graeae’s director, Jenny Sealey, set the songs within a narrative about a modest northern undertaker, Sue Graves, mad about diva songs, who finds a second career and name, signing songs for a local club. But then she falls in love and at the same time is offered a contract by an international hotel chain to fulfil her dream touring the world. Which will win out: a steady life and love, or glamour and divas?

This sequel, shows us the consequences of Sue’s choice and her arrival in Las Vegas. At this point, Nona Sheppard’s narrative begins to pitch over into melodrama. The sheer stamina required to hold the stage, alone, for two hours also begins to take its toll on Parker.

You can read the story on many different levels – as a cautionary tale about the cost of living out one’s dreams; of a woman striking out for independence; maybe even the double life.

Its major joy, however, lies in Parker herself. A magnificent communicator with the gift of immediate rapport with her audience and an exquisite sense of timing. From the moment she sits, in little black frock, and starts to sign Roberta Flack’s ‘The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face’ we are enthralled. Humorous, pungent, moving, she is a Marie Lloyd for our times.

Sue Graves/Tammy Frascati: Caroline Parker.

Directors: Nona Shepphard, Jenny Sealey.
Designer: takis.
Lighting: Ian Scott.
Sound: Victoria Wilkinson.
Vocal coach: Bardy Thomas.
BSL advisor: Daryl Jackson.

2010-02-04 13:31:37

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