Meet Shirley The Middle-Aged Siren at Chichester Fringe

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Chichester Fringe is offering us all the chance to meet Shirley The Middle-Aged Siren, the creation of Debbie Bridge.

Debbie will be heading to the Canal Cafe, Canal Basin, Canal Wharf, Chichester, PO19 8DT to bring you her latest one-woman show in classic cabaret style, but with a slight operatic twist.

The premise is that Shirley, complete with a tail and from the merfolk community, finds herself washed up “on the shores of Chichester” all the way from New York, lamenting the trials of being a middle-age female siren: excess blubber, sea fog and seemingly becoming invisible. It all happens on Friday, June 14 at 6.30pm. Debbie will be offering a workshop Bravery to Sing before the show at 5pm. Tickets from the Chichester Fringe.

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“In the show I break the fourth wall and talk to the audience and I sing a lot of songs that are relatively well known from the musical theatre world and elsewhere. Basically the show goes on a journey with Shirley who is a siren, a New Yorker and she is over here because she wants to talk about ageing, particularly in women. It all started when one day I was in the bath tub and I realised, thinking about merfolk, that you don't see any older women. You see just the young and beautiful women and men of any age but you don't see the older women and that's what Shirley is talking about. She is a siren and she has a proper green tail and she's here to explain about the merworld and the fact that she has been put on the shelf. It is poking fun at ageing and what we think of ageing. She says that if you're not looking after tadpoles then you are pushed under a rock. She is wanting humans to appreciate women of a certain age rather than just putting them on the shelf.

Debbie Bridge (contributed pic)Debbie Bridge (contributed pic)
Debbie Bridge (contributed pic)

“I grew up in Vancouver, Canada and with some of the indigenous peoples they would just put their older people out into the forest! It's a mix of indigenous people and folklore and sirens but it's not just talking about ageing.

"It's also talking about inclusion. She talks about how she never felt that she fitted into her role of being a siren. She wanted to be a different kind of siren. But the moral is all about looking after yourself and loving yourself and being kind to yourself and being kind to the rest of the world around us because we need it. She's talking about how she feels but she's not angry. She's just wanting to raise the issues.

“The show started its hatchings pre-Covid but really it's post-Covid that she has started to get her tail/tale. That's when I started to hone the show and make her more refined and make her more engaging as a character with the audience.”

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Debbie has been in the UK for more than 25 years now and used to live in Brighton which is one of the reasons she's keen to come back to the south coast: “I came over to the UK because of work really. I started out as an opera singer but in Canada there are not a lot of opera houses just down the road. You think it's competitive here but it's 100 times more so in Canada where you have got five or 10 opera houses that might have you so I came to the UK and did that for quite a few years and I'm still kind of doing it. But I have gone on and done acting and I've done voice-over work as well and I've even started doing stand-up comedy for the heck of it.”

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