Signs of a Star-Shaped Diva tells the slightly fantastical, but thoroughly heart-warming story of a deaf woman with two names, and two identities. Switching from Sue Graves the undertaker to Tammy Frascati the Deaf Diva may cause complications, but for the audience it provides hilarity and entertainment. This one woman show by Caroline Parker lasts more than two hours, so that by the end Parker thoroughly deserves a big round of applause (or hand flapping).
Graeae Theatre Company’s work with deaf and disabled actors and writers not only improves performance accessibility, but often produces plays which are highly original. As a deaf actor, instead of singing the words to the songs, Parkers mimes them through British Sign Language. This was almost enough to inspire me to start learning sign language. It may sound strange to describe sign language as beautiful, but it was. The physicality of signing each song seemed to add another dimension, drawing out the meaning of the words behind the melody. I hadn’t realised sign language was so expressive, it was almost as though Parker was dancing.
Each song connected to part of the plot, reminding me of a musical where spontaneous bursts into song are commonplace. Containing songs from Dusty Springfield and Gloria Gaynor to Amy Whitehouse and Dolly Parton, the production encouraged maximum audience participation. As an audience we weren’t quite brave enough to stand up and sing with Parker karaoke style; however I did see some members of the audience signing along with her during some songs. Although I wouldn’t describe myself as a diva fanatic, there were moments in the show when I was close to becoming one. There were some parts of the second act that seemed a little slow, but the introduction of a song quickly remedied this. I particularly enjoyed Parker’s rendition of Eartha Kitt’s ‘Just and Old-Fashioned Girl’ and Bette Midler’s ‘In these shoes?’
Within Signs of a Star-Shaped Diva, music, sign-language, props, costume and projected text fuse together to aid the creation of a show-biz atmosphere. I’m not sure how Parker managed to get those false eyelashes on so quickly, or to walk in those heels, but she definitely looked and played the part superbly.
By Anne Moore