August 29, 2023
Fascinating Aïda celebrate 40 years on the road
Caroline Feather chats to Dillie Keane, founder of cabaret trio Fascinating Aïda.
Fascinating Aïda are celebrating their 40th Anniversary this year. Dillie Keane founded the group in 1983 and was joined by key writing partner ‘Dame’ Adèle Anderson the following year. They quickly became a regular fixture on light entertainment TV, were nominated for a ‘Perrier’ in 1984 and were soon selling-out West End seasons garnering 3 Olivier Award nominations. Joined by soprano Liza Pullman in 2006, this indomitable trio have defined the British cabaret scene for four decades with razor sharp satirical songs like Cheap Flights and Dogging.
I spoke to Dillie Keane as she prepared for rehearsals for this celebratory tour:
Happy Anniversary! 40 years is a long time in show business. How do you think you’ve managed to stay at the top of the British Cabaret scene for so many years?
It’s a very small field. All you need to do is outlive the rest of them.
Will this show have any new songs or is it a ‘best of’ anniversary tour?
Of course it will have new songs! New subjects do keep popping up… AI, for instance. That’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to keep going. And we are relentless about rewriting and reworking old songs to stay contemporary.
Can you tell me a bit more about that song? What gave you the idea?
We were very aware that AI is hot news at the moment. Our song is very light-hearted, there’s enough doom and gloom elsewhere in the show. Hilarious doom and gloom, of course, but doom and gloom nonetheless.
Forgive me for mentioning it
I may not…
but you and Adèle are advancing in age… how do you approach caring for your health when you are singing, dancing and larking about on stage every night, in a different town for months on end?
It’s a set of muscles. You get good at it. I adore the first moment when the wheels are rolling under me again. Don’t have to make my own bed. Don’t have to cook breakfast. Get driven everywhere. Look after oneself – like only packing what’s absolutely necessary for a lighter suitcase. I go vegan backstage and cook only fresh food for myself in the microwave. And I drink a couple of bottles of shite wine every night.
You’ve been getting younger audiences on recent tours due to your presence on social media. What do you think young people think of your shows?
Ah… I had a fascinating conversation with a young man of 21 only the other day. He said the reason he loved our material was because we never take a pop at people who might be disadvantaged in any way, only at the rich and powerful. Maybe that has something to do with it. And I suppose having a trans person in the group made us fairly “woke” before we even heard the word. Having said that, we are spectacularly vulgar and rude and when we do take a pop at the rich and powerful, we take no prisoners.
Fascinating Aïda shows are famous for their ‘Bulgarian Song Cycles’ – very short songs combining crunchy harmonies and up-to-the minute satirical lyrics – sometimes from that very day’s news agenda. What started this tradition in your shows?
I met the Trio Bulgaka in the 1980s which was a real treat as I adored their singing. Discovering those Bulgarian harmonies was utterly mind blowing. I wanted to use that music to convey short ideas. I suppose there are people who think it’s cultural appropriation – for me, it’s cultural homage. Deep deep homage.
Is it true a women went into labour during the show in Newcastle on your last tour?
Oh, we’ve had all sorts of lovely achievements like that. Someone’s daughter laughed for the first time in over a year after a massive breakdown. People have met at our gigs, fallen in love and got married. And now we have brought a child into the world a little earlier than anticipated. I hope, if it’s a boy, he’s called Brian. Whoops, that’s rather gender-specific. If it’s a girl, why shouldn’t they be called Brian too? Lovely name.
You have lots of celebrity fans, including Helena Bonham Carter, Sandi Toksvig, Brian Cox, Miriam Margolyes, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and the comedian Stewart Lee yet you are rarely on TV or radio these days. Why do you think that is?
I’m sure we have some celebrities who don’t like us much too. TV executives are all v young these days, hardly any of them have even sprouted a pube. They think we’re old hat – if they’ve heard of us. And even the older ones whose pubes are thinning think we’re too rude. And none of them can be arsed to come and see the show.
What gives you the most satisfaction? Laughter or Applause?
If you weren’t in Fascinating Aïda what would you be doing?
Gardening for a living. It was the only other career I considered with any degree of seriousness. I wouldn’t be very successful now because I’d be telling people that I couldn’t design their gardens if they refused to have lawns, and they’d sack me and get a “garden designer” (pfft) who covers their space in decking and cement pots with f***ing agave in it.Back to all News