The quest for funds to restore Castle Goring has pushed “complete stage virgin” Lady Colin Campbell back into the spotlight. But if she can survive a Bush Tucker trial, a one-woman Fringe show should be no bother…
In her first-ever visit to the Fringe, Lady Colin Campbell is taking the same approach she took to I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here: jump first, ask questions later.
The Jamaican-born aristocrat – who was raised a boy, married into a prominent Scottish family, wrote a best-selling book about Princess Diana and leapt unexpectedly to fame in the Australian jungle last year – has no experience of performing or writing for the stage.
But when it was suggested she perform a solo show at the Gilded Balloon, she decided to do it. “I was reluctant, not least because I didn’t think anybody would find me particularly interesting,” she admits. “But I was talked into it. Everyone saw me on that jungle programme and people apparently warmed to me.”
Lady Colin has a scriptwriter, Richard Stirling, a director, Stuart Nicholls, and a publicist, Paul Sullivan, all of whom, she has been assured, are “a dream team”.
Her primary goal is to raise funds for Castle Goring, the country house in Sussex built for the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, which she is currently renovating. “I’m whoring for Goring,” she laughs. That is a typical example of her wit – Lady Colin speaks almost exclusively in aphorisms and bon mots, all delivered in her extraordinary upper-class drawl – and audiences at her one-woman show, A Cup of Tea with Lady C, can expect much more of it. It will cover everything about her life, including her mistaken gender, although she’s less interested in the subject: “I personally find the whole thing yawn-filled.”
She says her 20s and 30s were “all about men”, her 40s and 50s “all about my children”, and the present day is “all about the castle”. The writers, she adds, “have been quite determined that I cover all aspects of my life”.
That life has not been without its struggles. Her marriage was an unhappy one and the legacy of her childhood was hard to shake off. “I hated my father when I was growing up – hated him with a passion. I loved my mother as a child, but later I realised she had been manipulative. I went into therapy because I had an unbearable burden of pain that I couldn’t carry with me, but I wasn’t prepared to bore my friends with it. I was very lucky to get a wonderful therapist. ‘We were born to be happy,’ he used to say.”
She believes her selfconfidence is partly the legacy of a Caribbean childhood. “I have to tell you, Jamaica then was a glorious place to be a child. It is very warm and friendly, and they have a certain kindness that goes with what they call ‘roots people’. They also say there’s no such thing as a weak Jamaican woman. I’m not sure that’s right, but I think it is 98 per cent right.” Lady C was surprised and flattered by the response of the public to her appearance on I’m a Celebrity. “It has been amazing, the outpouring of regard and affection. I didn’t try to charm anybody – I am just myself. I always say to my children, ‘Just be yourself, and be a good and decent person.’ Sometimes it works and people are nice and appreciative, and sometimes it doesn’t.
“The psychiatrist on the show told me I was the only person who didn’t care what anybody thought of them, which is why I was the person the public warmed to more than anybody else.” So it is with this spirit that she goes to Edinburgh “a complete virgin”. “One of the secrets of leading a reasonably happy life is if you have to do something, just do it and try to find some enjoyment in it.”
Words: Claire Smith
Picture: David Chambers
A Cup of Tea With Lady C, Gilded Balloon Teviot, 5–28 August (not 16), 3pm