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Interview with Luke Bayer

Having had a successful run at Turbine Theatre back in Summer 2022, ‘Diva Live From Hell’ is currently playing at King’s Head Theatre before heading up to Scotland for the Edinburgh Fringe. Fresh from press night the evening before, I caught up with Luke Bayer to find out all about this one man musical.

Describing it as “a camp fun comedy” Luke explained how the show begins with protagonist Desmond Channing telling his audience why he is in hell. Jumping back in time, it delves into Desmond coming into competition with a cool new kid, Evan Harris. With five characters in total, Luke is playing them all, describing how he uses different voices and alters the way he carries himself to convey each of them clearly to the audience. He has even based the portrayals of some of them on real life people;

“Desmond is an amalgamation of Lea Michele’s character in Glee, Sharpay Evans and interestingly a little bit of Jamie in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the start of Act 2.”

The comparison to Jamie is intriguing as Luke alternated the role in the original west end run of ‘Everybody's Talking About Jamie.’ We discussed the balancing act of having empathy for a character with obvious flaws;

“He’s quite knowing of some things, but other things not so much. He can be unbearable yet also likeable, he’s a complex character. I don’t want him to be a complete villain, you need to feel kind of sorry for him too.”

Photo Credit: Danny With A Camera

Talking about ensuring Desmond remains likeable, Luke explained how he sees certain similarities between the character and himself;

“There’s loads of moments that I look at the audience and give a kind of cheeky knowing look. I feel that’s in my blueprint! He’s quite silly and naughty and spontaneous; I’m definitely those three things!”

‘Diva: Live From Hell’ promises to be the sort of show where each performance provides a unique experience for audiences. In one performance he even went off on a tangent ending becoming one of The Sims, much to the the bands amusement! Talking about keeping it fresh;

“I like for things to change and that’s what I love about the show, it’s constantly growing and evolving. If you watched the show last night, there might be things that I might not say next week. It’s such a live experience, if an audience member says something I can interact with them. I love being able to play, have fun and connect with an audience.”

Luke’s interpretation of another character is based partly on his friend (and recent Olivier Award winner) Tom Francis. The pair starred alongside each other in Hope Mill Theatre’s revival of Rent back in 2021. This remains one of the best productions I have ever seen.

“Tom Francis is an absolute star. I watched the live stream the year before and I was just blown away by the whole thing. I love the Hope Mill boys, Joe (Houston) and Will (Whelton) are absolutely brilliant. They are so lovely to work for, they are such champions of people. I could do that show for 10 years… it needs to happen. Lets put it out into the universe!”

“I would love to do it again. It was a bucket list moment to do the show, it was really special. I got to work with some of my absolute best friends like Tom (Francis), Maiya (Quansah-Breed), Millie (O’Connell) and Iz (Hesketh). What was crazy to me is that people travelled from all over the world to see that at the Hope Mill. People who had seen productions of Rent all over the world were like ‘This is one of the best productions of RENT I’ve ever seen’.”

Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

For ‘Diva’ however, Luke is the only actor on the stage. Asking how that feels he explains;

“It’s kinda scary! I love the show and the fact it has come back again is crazy, and Im so grateful to be doing it again. What an amazing opportunity to be asked to do a one man musical!”

After its residency at Kings Head Theatre, the show is having its Edinburgh Fringe debut. As his first time performing there, Luke told me how he was excited to perform whilst also having the opportunity support other shows. One such show is Rob Madge’s one person triumph ‘My Sons A Queer… But What Can You Do?’

Luke and Rob previously stared in millennials together at The Other Palace Theatre. I asked if they had given any advice or tips on delivering a one person show;

“We’ve spoken about it a bit and we’ve batted ideas off each other. Rob just has this amazing star quality and is so watchable, so likeable, so relatable. They are so good at finding those moments of pause and giving those little looks. There is so many things Rob is such a master at, that I’ve tried to pinch little things that they do so well. They are one of the most beautiful kind people and I love them.”

Photo Credit - Mark Senior

‘Diva live From Hell’ is on at King’s Head Theatre until 29 June 2024. There will be a review up of the show later next week should you want to know my thoughts.


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