Hallucinating Kate Bush, rolling around in jam and binge sleeping: all the big questions for the Drag Race star who’s starring in The SpongeBob Musical
“There was a boy… a very strange enchanted boy…” Divina de Campo is singing her lungs out on a Zoom call, sat in front of a rail full of wigs and jackets and accessories to help turn her into a dancing plankton. Asked about getting to sing a Bowie song on stage (‘No Control’) in The Spongebob Musical, de Campo launches into her favourite Bowie cover of ‘Nature Boy’ instead.
Not that it would feel out of place. Partly full of songs written by Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, partly with tracks by Bowie, Panic! At The Disco, Lady Antebellum, John Legend and Steve Tyler, The Spongebob Musical is every bit as eccentric as it sounds. A story about a sponge (Lewis Cornay), a squid (Gareth Gates), an underwater volcano, a gang of cultist sardines and a plot by an evil plankton (de Campo) to hypnotise everyone into eating cheap burgers – all set to original, Tony-winning alt-rock musical numbers.
“I’d be lying if I said I jumped at the chance to play a single-celled creature, but actually… it’s perfect.” laughs de Campo, in love with the whole show. “Plankton is complicated. You see his insecurities, and you see his depth. Plus the whole production is just amazing. It’s bringing in people who wouldn’t normally go into a theatre because they don’t maybe feel like a theatre is the space for them. And there’s so much joy in that.”
Before Divina de Campo launches into another song (she gets through a few), we asked her the important questions…
Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?
Kate Bush. She’d be smoking a fag, telling you all the stories. What more could you ask for?
Have you done any Kate Bush on stage before?
Oh god, ‘Wuthering Heights’ is one of my specialities. I used to do this tiny little pub in Brighton, and every year they had a Kate Bush convention. One year it just happened to be the day that I was there. So this group of about 20 Kate Bush impersonators came in while I was on stage. I must admit, I was very drunk – they’d given me a lot of absinthe over the course of the afternoon – but I felt like I was hallucinating. All of these Kate Bush’s crept into the pub, and so then I was like, okay, stop, stop, put this track on… and the whole pub was just full of [starts belting out ‘Wuthering Heights’].
Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?
Nigel Farage. Too easy.
What’s the weirdest interaction you’ve ever had with a famous person?
Okay, so I love Kerry Katona… I genuinely really love her. I think she’s really smart. She understands what her audience wants from her. She works the crowd brilliantly. She’s fantastic on stage and her work ethic is really admirable. But… The first time I met her she was doing the Iceland advert. So I made an outfit. I had this dress with this sort of scalloped edge, and I made a wig with a prawn ring on the top of it, and with a giant lobster sat in the middle. This was all made of foam, so obviously it wasn’t real. And Kerry just saw me and said, politely, ‘Oh I like your hat. Very Lady Gaga’. She didn’t even realise why I was wearing it.
What’s on your rider?
Oh, I’m so boring. I just asked for tea and a couple of cans of Coke. When I first started, my agent just sent out a generic rider, which was a meat platter, a fruit platter, and a load of alcohol. I used to turn up I’d be like, ‘Why is there a tray full of dead animals in my dressing room?’. No thank you.
What did 12-year-old you imagine you’d be doing now?
This! This was my dream at 12. I mean, not necessarily being a single celled organism… But doing West End shows and musical theatre. It’s taken me on a very circuitous path to get here though.
Did it seem achievable at the time?
Yeah, I think it did. I’ve had the most incredible career – I’ve done all kinds of weird and wonderful stuff. But if you have a specific dream to do something, do that thing. Do the thing that will take you there where you want to go. I went to uni and did drama and dance and contemporary art. We were rolling around in jam, being naked, shaving our hair off on stage, that kind of stuff. That isn’t necessarily going to give you the appropriate qualifications for life in musical theatre, but it’s all on the right path.
It must be nice with SpongeBob to see so many young kids in the audience maybe looking at you and maybe having those same dreams.
Oh for sure. I’ve actually worked in and out of schools for about 10 years. I did loads of TA stuff and dance in the community projects too – all while I was doing pub drag in the evenings, singing inappropriate songs. So I’ve done lots of work with kids, right from tiny 18-month-old babies all the way up to university. But there is something really magical about this show. Because for a lot of kids, this is their first experience of the theatre. There’s something really wonderful about being a part of that.
What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given?
Say yes to everything. That is actually the worst advice I’ve ever been given, because I do I say yes to everything – and sometimes it’s not appropriate. Sometimes you’re just not the right person for it. And sometimes, it’s not the right thing for you either. So being able to recognise that is really important.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
I’ve had a lot of really terrible jobs. All respect to the people who do it, working in a UPVC windows manufacturer was right up there. The frames would turn up and the guys would have a like a sharp-edged tool that they would run across the edges to scrape off the scratchy bits of metal on the side, and then I had to sweep up all the shavings off the floor. And it didn’t provide you with any equipment, so it was just an old school wooden brush and no gloves. My hands are used to playing violin! I don’t have manual labour hands! The guys who worked there were great though. They were all very nice to me. It was not the job for me, though.
How long did you do that for?
If you had to have a theme song playing every time you walked into a room, what would it be?
It would be the start of Wicked, with Glinda [starts singing ‘No One Mourns The Wicked’]. I’d love to be in that show. Originally actually, they bandied around the idea of casting a drag queen as Madame Morrible. And then they realised that there’s only about four parts for older women in the UK, so they probably shouldn’t do that…
Who do you often get told you look like?
I used to get told I looked like Ioan Gruffudd, the bloke from Hornblower. But he’s much more attractive than I am. But I don’t really get told I look like anybody now. Unless it’s drag, and then everybody’s like, ‘Oh, you look like her, and her and her’. And I’m like, ‘No, this is my face! I look like me!’. I’m the older one, so if anything, they look like me! Oh, sometimes I also get Jim Carrey, but that’s just because of the way I use my face.
What’s the skill that no one else knows you’re great at?
I don’t know because I tell everybody everything I’m great at! But this is a thing, I try not to talk about that stuff because you go on a TV show and they’re like, ‘right, you need to tell us everything you can do’. And then they make you do it over and over and over. And then it looks like that’s all you ever do. What am I good at? I’m really good at sleeping. I can go to sleep anywhere. Anytime. I can even sleep backstage, between acts.
What’s your most controversial food opinion?
Meat is murder. And it’s murdering us. Is that controversial?!
Which film have you rewatched the most times?
The Wizard Of Oz. That, and Annie – against my will. Because my sister Carys would have it on repeat for the entire summer holiday. It’s annoying, but it does have… [sings ‘Let’s Go To The Movies’]. Also Carol Burnett is a genius. I mean, the whole of ‘Easy Street’, where she puts her foot through the wall, that’s just sheer brilliance.
What’s your dream role in The Wizard Of Oz?
Oh, the Wicked Witch of course. I have to be the Wicked Witch. Whenever we played make-believe games outside as kids, that’s where I would be. She’s amazing.
Do you have any superstitions?
Oh, I do actually. I don’t like to tell anyone if I have an audition for anything. Because my experience is that when I do, or if anybody works out what it is, I don’t get the job. I didn’t tell anybody about going for this job and I got it. I told one person about going for something else and I didn’t get the job. That has happened over and over.
Have you got any auditions coming up?
Nice try darling.
Question here from Jack Whitehall: what’s the worst gig you’ve ever played?
The worst was in Silverdale, which is just outside of Stoke On Trent. The audience could not have been less interested the entire time, and I had to do not one but two sets, for 45 minutes. I felt like shooting myself by the time I’d finished. And then, as always happens in those instances, after I’d finished the show a queue of people formed wanting to take pictures and say how great I was. Never again!