Peter Groom is the star of Dietrich – Natural Duty at Wilton’s Music Hall which is on from this Monday. He’s originally from Newcastle, has lived in Berlin and owns a set of Marlene Dietrich’s doorknobs!
Where are you from originally?
I’m from Newcastle upon Tyne. I moved to London when I was 17. I used to live in Berlin too, Germany is still very special to me.
And where do you live now?
I live in south London now, in Streatham Hill.
What do you love about London and why?
The people! I know northerners always say that southerners aren’t as friendly, but I haven’t found that at all; particularly where I live in Streatham/Brixton, the people are wonderful!
What was the first gay venue you visited?
Powerhouse in Newcastle, when I was about 14, most probably full of Apple Sourz. I hear Powerhouse is now enjoying something of a revival.
How would you describe the show Dietrich Natural Duty?
It’s a one (wo)man show about the life of screen legend Marlene Dietrich, particularly focusing on her war years. Expect songs, sequins, sex and sympathy! It’s glamorous, it’s sexy, and her story is incredible poignant. If you know her and her work, come! If you don’t, even more reason to.
What is it about Dietrich that continues to fascinate us?
She has mystique, something I don’t think we really see these days. She knew just how much to give her audience; people nowadays are all too keen to publicise every moment. Also she is full of contradictions, which makes her so enigmatic. Her androgynous attraction, her Prussian sense of discipline, and her incredible glamour which she jokes at and shrugs off.
What is your guilty pleasure and why?
Judge Judy, I’ve loved her for years. She is hilarious, but I can’t watch her if other people are in the room, it feels like I’m doing something naughty. ‘Baloney!’
Rent and wigs!
Best gift you’ve ever received and why?
Marlene Dietrich’s glass bedroom doorknobs. Given to me after a show by an amazing lady called Sally who was neighbour to Marlene’s daughter, Maria.
What has been the highlight of your career so far and why?
After our run at Wilton’s Music Hall we tour to New York and Australia. I never thought a year ago when we started making the show we’d be flying around the world.
If you could go back in time which year would you choose and why?
1956, La Scala, Milan. I could hear Maria Callas sing ‘Norma’, then go backstage and meet Marlene, who was there to see the show that night.
What’s the best party you’ve ever been to and what made it so good?
Up Yer Weimar, an amazing night hosted by artist Emily Howard. The costumes are always incredible, StavB plays great music. It’s decadent. It’s opulent. It’s Wunderschön.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Always wear two sets of lashes, one is never enough.
Who is your LGBT+ hero and why?
David Hoyle, he’s a legend. He came to see my show in Newcastle and I was overawed. I admire his politics, he is both super political and hugely entertaining. I’ve never seen anyone command a stage like him, a genius.
Where in the world would you like to visit before you die and why?
I hope I can get back to Berlin. If we can travel after March!
What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?
I don’t think there is anything. I reckon you learn things as they happen. Marlene said “I never look backwards“ and I have to say I agree.