Dillie Keane 'Songs My Mother Would Have Hated'

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Last Show: Monday 27 th March 2023

The Pheasantry (Chelsea)

Dillie’s mother, now long gone to join the Choir Invisible, despaired of her daughter. “Don’t sing those awful songs, you’ll never find a husband!” she said over and over. Her mother was right. Now at an age when most of her contemporaries are enjoying their leisure and spending their children’s inheritance, she’s working as hard as ever. Back with a new(ish) collection of songs culled from various sources, she continues to behave badly and sing about it. So if you’re passing by Shankhill Cemetery which is just south of Dublin, and you hear a curious whirring sound, it’s her mother. A better plan, however, is to come and see her show. 

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“A rare performer who can produce sharp, piercing satire and deliver heart-breaking songs with élan.”

Huffington Post

Dillie Keane is best known as one third of the satirical trio, Fascinating Aïda.

The bare bones of her life are these. Born Portsmouth 1952. Father a much-loved local GP. Three older, delightful siblings who have done nothing but grace the name of Keane and distinguish themselves in every way. Family despaired of Dillie ever conforming. 

Educated happily at Portsmouth High School and then at successive ghastly Convents where she learned remedial curtseying and sang to save her sanity. “She’ll come to no good, that girl!’ opined one of the nuns as her parents took her away after she was expelled.

A hiatus followed in which she worked like a lunatic to make up the educational deficiencies resulting from her convent years.  Then to Trinity College Dublin to study music which was the only “arts” qualification her mother would sanction.

Safely at university, she partied like a girl released from a convent and became a leading light of the drama society. After three years of a divinely crazed existence, she collapsed, was carted off to hospital, then flunked out as she couldn’t face resitting the year.

Finally, she took control of her life. Whilst pretending to be respectable as secretary to the MD of a leading advertising firm, she secretly auditioned for LAMDA. The day she got her acceptance letter was the best day of her life.  

LAMDA was everything she hoped for, though keeping body and soul together was wild. Ran a stall in the Portobello Road selling handmade shopping bags, aprons and second-hand clothes. Temped in the evenings and the holidays, became an artist’s model, did bar work, biked everywhere in London and hitched everywhere else. Played piano in hotels, clubs and restaurants. Two months in Sweden playing piano in a grim Stockholm nightclub hardened her for the life to come.

Acting jobs followed. Then the songs started popping out. And with the acting jobs, new friends who were willing to sing her songs. Fascinating Aïda was born in 1983.  

Somewhat improbably, it’s still going 39 years later. She occasionally does some acting and solo cabaret, but Fascinating Aïda refused to die. It has taken her all over the English-speaking world and garnered 3 Olivier Nominations and 3 Drama Desk nominations.

Having been a climate catastrophist for 40 years, she has a sustainability eco-blog called shityoudontneed.blog.

Live performance is her first love and she intends to go on performing till infirmity or the Grim Reaper intervenes.

Photo credit - Steve Ullathorne