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23rd Jul 2022

Arlene Phillips: “Having a child at that age is a gift, I felt so lucky to have my daughter”

“They were capturing that moment of the joy that this has given, it just made me feel so proud.”

Arlene Phillips has had a career like none-other. Going from a Strictly judge to a theatre director, she has lived a life so varied and so extraordinary, one many of us would only dream of.

The former I’m A Celeb star sat down with as The Cher Show makes its way to Dublin’s Bord Gáis Energy Theatre to spill all on her role at the hands of the show, as well as her own life.

Sitting in the empty lobby of the theatre, in sweltering heat and humidity, Arlene explained exactly what it was about The Cher Show that made her take the role as director – as it’s not something she does for just any show.

“I’ve been a Cher fan since I first heard I Got You Babe, but more than that, she is a woman that I admire, she’s outspoken, obviously she’s talented, she’s had hits in every decade and she’s a real star, in every sense of the word,” Arlene said.

“To be able to get involved in a show that is about a woman’s life who I respect and admire, she’s a voice for women’s rights, it was too good of an opportunity to miss. She’s an icon.”

After an extremely delayed flight, Arlene managed to get to see the last 10 minutes of opening night in Dublin, watching the moment Cher’s story ends and the concert begins, a feeling that immediately made the dancer proud of what she had accomplished with the show, and knew her time was well spent directing.

“The audience were on their feet, watching, moving, dancing, singing along, and the applause, I suddenly thought ‘my god, you are a part of this’. This wonderful moment, life felt good, particularly with people going through difficult times, they were capturing that moment of the joy that this has given, it just made me feel so proud.”

When it comes to theatre funding in the UK, it does not fall under the same schemes as sports or other art and cultural activities do, and Arlene recently spoke about the need for someone in Government to address this.

Going as far as saying there is a need for a Minister for Theatre, it is something that has become a huge passion of hers, and something any theatre go-er can relate to.

“Emotionally and passionately, I do feel there should be a Minister for Theatre to make theatre a place possible for everyone to come. There needs to be a massive support the way there is for sport.

“Theatre is the underdog, but actually, if you put theatre and dance and music all together, it’s a massive industry. It definitely needs government support, and the opportunity for everyone to see theatre, it becomes part of their lives. Not just for people who can afford to go.

“I would like to see that shows were supported by the government, be able to open those opportunities through funded performances… government-funded performances. In a sense, there is funding for the arts, for museums, for art galleries, for opera, for ballet but I think that theatre needs that. Musicals need that.”

Arlene also opened up during her time in the I’m a Celeb Castle, and about becoming a mum for the second time at the age of 47.

While having children later in life is becoming more and more common, at the time her daughter was born this was not the case for Arlene. A strong stigma still existed.

“I think there’s a stigma around being an older woman and certainly having babies, but interestingly enough, when I had my first daughter at 36, I was called a geriatric mother then,” she said.

“Now 36 for me seems impossibly young to have a baby. That was very odd but certainly, when I was 47 and discovered I was pregnant, after thinking it was menopause, I had no idea. I was treated like an unusual specimen at that time and I do think now it’s getting so much easier for women, and more acceptable, to have babies when they’re older.”

“Having a child at that age is a gift, and I felt so lucky to have my daughter at that age. It was amazing and my oldest daughter now has two little ones. There’s a joy in being a grandmother, and in my time now I think very much about what I’m doing because I want to be a grandmother to them, I want to be around and watch them grow up.

“There are so many people, particularly in theatre, that I’ve met who want children and feel they’re too old and I always say no, you’re never too old. If you want children, you can bring that child up with love. That’s what a child needs, to be loved, to be nurtured, to be nourished in every way and don’t think my age is going to prevent me. You can do it.”

The Cher Show is currently showing at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre until July 30th.