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Tina T’urner Tea Lady: cabaret artist

Tina T'urner Tea Lady. Photo: Jason Read

Musician, singer and cabaret artist Tracey Collins’ latest incarnation has really fired people’s imaginations. She was named Best Newcomer at this year’s London Cabaret Awards and is taking her debut full-length show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Was there any showbiz in your family?

My granddad was a club promoter and I think my uncle was a one-man band, but nothing professional. I went to the Haymarket Youth Theatre in Leicester then did a BTEC in performing arts. I was going to go to drama school but I got nodules on my vocal chords, which was awful, so I had to have time off and do voice therapy. I started making music and singing in gospel choirs to strengthen my voice. That led to a solo record deal with BMG. It was a weird experience,  and a bit disappointing; I made an album in Norway but nothing came of it. I joined various bands then moved into cabaret and did a singing-and-spanking act in London in 2006; it was really exciting.

Hang on, were you spanking the audience or were they spanking you?

They were spanking me! With their hands. It was at places like Volupte Lounge. It was just a little act but it made me realise there was this interesting scene. At the same time I was making music in the studio every day as part of New Found Affection, a duo with my boyfriend. Everything has led to Tina T’urner Tea Lady somehow.

How did the character come about?

For years I’ve been writing comedy, for myself, but because of the cabaret act I knew I was good at making people laugh. I’d always been looking for something to do that would be comedy-based. I did a job where I had to play a tea lady taking someone a birthday cake, and I loved it. And I was always doing impersonations of Tina Turner, Michael Jackson and so on, and I just put the two together. I put it on Facebook and someone said, ‘I’ll book you’.

How much of you is in the character?

I’d say, like… none, ha ha. She’s very extreme in everything she says. She has no shame; anything personal is just out there; she’s grown out of any self-consciousness, she’s admitting she’s lonely, that she’s going to find a guy in the audience. I’ve been doing Tina for a year and half but have also been playing different characters, like doing bingo as David Bowie and Barry White, but with Tina it’s important that I do an hour show at Edinburgh then maybe move on to different characters or a character comedy show.

Do you know if Tina Turner herself knows about you?

I don’t think so but I think she’d like it because it’s not mean; it’s a parody, not an impersonation. It’s a deluded tea lady who thinks she is Tina, who tells fabricated stories she believes it to be true.

Tina T’urner Tea Lady comperes the Aeronaut Circus, Acton on May 30. For details of all her other appearances go to www.tinatealady.com

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