Sirens of the Silver Screen is Upstairs at the Gatehouse: Interview with creator and performer Beth Burrows

Find out things you never knew about three of Hollywood’s most iconic leading ladies with the new show Sirens of the Silver Screen from creator and performer Beth Burrows.

What made you decide to feature these three particular leading ladies?

I was living in Dubai when I created the show. There is a real dearth of homegrown theatre in the United Arab Emirates, so out of frustration I decided to make my own show. In order to appeal to a Dubai audience I knew I had to create something glamorous and glitzy – Dubai is a very flashy place! My first thought was Hollywood, home of the red carpet. I drew up a shortlist of silver screen sirens I could choose from. There were plenty of impressive names on the list – Elizabeth Taylor, Ginger Rogers, Grace Kelly – but the ones that really stood out were Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. These women are true legends, goddesses even, on another level from the rest. It seems the more time passes the more iconic they become.

As a performer yourself, do you identify with any aspects of their lives?

Well I’ve never had an addiction to sleeping pills or an affair with a US President (frankly I wouldn’t want to – you couldn’t pay me enough money to go anywhere near Trump!). But there are elements of their psyche as a performer I can relate to. Marilyn, and to a certain extent, Judy, struggled with being too self-critical. I think vulnerability is part of the performer experience, it’s just about realising you are not that little voice in your head. I think that’s what got Marilyn in the end – she couldn’t distinguish the two.

You’re keen to show the vulnerable side of these three women. Did you discover anything unusual about them while doing your research?

Tons! I thought I knew most stuff about them when I started researching, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Each siren is like a Russian doll – you can keep uncovering layer upon layer of their story. I learnt so much weird and wonderful stuff about them. For example, Judy’s dad was secretly gay and many of her five husbands were also supposedly bi or gay. Audrey lived through the Nazi occupation in Holland in a town that had so little food that one year on Christmas Day she ate nothing at all and fainted from hunger. That’s why she was so skinny all her life – her body never got used to having food. Marilyn was obsessed with Jean Harlow. From the first time she saw her in films as a child she wanted to look like her. Marilyn had a rule that no one could be blonder than her – she even made her friend dye her hair dark again after she went platinum. What a diva!

What’s next for you? Would you like to add any more Sirens into the show?

After I finish my London run of Sirens of the Silver Screen I’m going to write my next show. I want it to take the same format: exploring three stars’ lives through song and story. I’m still deciding who to pick. My first thought was modern day sirens (like Amy Winehouse), but I love Old Hollywood so much that I kind of want to stick with this era. Maybe I’ll do the golden gents of the silver screen – Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra! Keep your eyes peeled…

Sirens of the Silver Screen is Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate, London N6 4BD. Book tickets via

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