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From Coventry kid to West End girl; COVENTRY DIRECTOR DEBBIE ISITT'S LATEST PLAY IS A BIG HIT IN LONDON.

Byline: MARION McMULLEN

COVENTRY director and writer Debbie Isitt is dishing it up in London with a wickedly funny tale of relationships and kitchen utensils. Theatre writer MARION McMULLEN finds out her recipe for success.

SEEING the House Full signs going up every night outside the theatre is guaranteed to brings a big smile to the face of Coventry writer and director Debbie Isitt.

She is conquering London's West End with her black comedy The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband and audiences are going mad for tickets.

It's hardly surprising when the cast includes the talents of Fat Friends star Alison Steadman and Channel 4 presenter Daisy Donovan.

They star in the tale of a woman who invites her ex-husband and his youthful new wife to a dinner party to celebrate their third anniversary. But the evening doesn't go exactly as planned.

The new production has come as a pleasant surprise to Debbie. She first wrote the darkly funny comedy back in the 1990s and it originally premiered in Coventry at Warwick Arts Centre.

It went on to become a hit at the Edinburgh Festival and at the Royal Court Theatre and is now being revived in London's West End at the New Ambassadors Theatre. Debbie herself appeared in the play when it first appeared at the Royal Court.

"The producers found the play and became very excited," says Debbie. "They had never heard about it before or seen it but they thought it would make a good West End piece and contacted me about it.

"That was about a year ago and nothing happened because they were trying to sort out the casting. Then I had a call two weeks before the rehearsals began to let me know everything was going ahead."

Alison Steadman backed Debbie to direct the revival and it's made life a lot easier for multi-talented Isitt. "No-one can argue with me," she laughs, "because I can simply say 'that's the way it was written.' It's unusual to have the writer around as well, but it solves a lot of problems.

"I had never met Alison Steadman before but she backed me for the job because I had met her ex-husband Mike Leigh and she told the producers that she really thought I should do it. Really she got me the job in my own play."

The West End production has meant long hours and long days for the former graduate of Coventry Centre For Performing Arts, but the previews have been sell-outs.

However, the work has also meant Debbie has had to spend time away from her lively three-year-old daughter Sydney. "It's been down to just seeing her at weekends and I do miss her a lot during the week," sighs Debbie, "but it's been hard getting home during the rehearsals because there has been so much to do. You can't just reproduce what you've done before with a new cast. The production has changed a lot."

Her talents have led the 36-year-old to success in theatre and television. She helped set up Coventry's popular Snarling Beasties theatre company when she left school at 19 and her plays have toured all over the world.

Her first feature film, Nasty Neighbours, starred TV's Royle Family favourite Ricky Tomlinson and she is working on the idea for a new movie called Confetti about a wedding.

Meanwhile, her documentary special Tribute will be screened at Birmingham Film Festival in November.

It is a collaboration with Coventry's Triangle Theatre Company and features city performer Caran Waterfield and Richard Talbot in their guises of odd couple Nina and Frederick.

It sees them performing their own special tribute to 60s singers Nina and Frederick and the piece also features Stars In Their Eyes host Matthew Kelly. He also hopes to attend the Birmingham screening. "It should be a lot of fun," grins Debbie.

CAPTION(S):

BIG SMILE: Debbie Isitt and (inset) Alison Steadman and Daisy Donvan in The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Sep 16, 2002
Words:662
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