'Can't wait to meet Panti Bliss in Pantibar' Divina de Campo ahead of their Spongebob Dublin performance

By Emily Mullen

May 4, 2023 at 3:16pm

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The Bord Gáis Energy Theatre is set to transform into Bikini Bottom next week for a limited time only.

The Spongebob Musical is coming to Dublin next week, and if you've been a forever fan of the cartoon, you may want to check out this one-of-a-kind performance.

Drag royalty Divina de Campo, who plays Plankton in the show, has said that they cannot wait to come to Dublin to meet Pantibliss and have a bev in Pantibar throughout the musical's run.

Speaking at the press screening of Spongebob Squarepants the Musical, the drag queen said that they have been chatting with Panti for quite a while "over Twitter you know!" and that they could not wait to visit the iconic gay bar. de Campo won't have to wait long as the star-studded cast from the musical will be treading the board at Dublin's Bord Gáis Energy Theatre next week.

de Campo, who stars as Plankton, and Pop Idol's Gareth Gates will be playing Squidward in the musical written by Kyle Jarrow and conceived by Tina Landau, spoke to us at the screening following their first performance for an audience, discussing everything from their characters, to what they hope people take away from the musical.

Interview with Gareth Gates (Squidward)

How are you feeling after that? That's the first performance you've done from the musical?

There's been a lot to learn but it's a really fantastic show. I hadn't really heard too much about the show before we actually started and it's really, really fun. The music's incredible, the cast is great, and so we're all having a great time.

It seems like a really varied cast, you seem to have a beautiful bond, you come from different backgrounds and different parts of the theatre and music, which is really nice to see. 

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As a cast we all get on extremely well and you know, they're all great talents, so there's kind of a mutual respect. It's good, always makes life easier.

It's an unusual musical in the fact there's probably less expectations. Do you think there's a bit more freedom in the role that you can kind of make it your own? 

It's a little bit more absurd, you know, it's not as fussy. There are obviously fans of the cartoon and so when we're doing research on the character, we always tend to go back to the cartoon. You know with the accent I do in the show, I try to base it off the cartoon, I try to keep it as close to that as possible. There is a bit of freedom there for me to bring my own kind of flavour to it. Squidward is a very, very grumpy character, which is the opposite of what I am, so it's really quite nice to be playing something completely different.

I was going to say, meeting you now and knowing what Squidward is going to be, almost seems a bit strange, is it something you've decided to lean into? 

Yes, it's great to play something that's completely different to yourself and being given the opportunity is really, really fantastic. In the show as well, Squidward has a big tap dancing number and I haven't ever tap danced in my life. I had four lessons before rehearsals, and so it's a real challenge. However, I've accepted the challenge and it's actually going okay. I had to tap with two extra legs as well attached to me, so as if it's not hard enough to tap dance already, with an extra two legs it's real hard work.

What is something you want people to take away from this as a viewer? What is the emotion that you would love people to come away from the show with? 

It's an extremely feel good show, you know at the end everyone will absolutely be smiling, and in a world where everything is kind of doom and gloom at the minute, it's a great way to lift your emotions I guess.

Are you looking forward to coming to Dublin? 

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Absolutely. I've spent quite a bit of time in Dublin, a lot of my shows have been there in the past. I'm thrilled to be there for a whole week, and I can't wait for a pint of Guinness.

Interview with Divina de Campo (Plankton)

How was your first performance of the show? 

The first time in front of people is always a moment of truth for me. Do I actually know this or am I not really sure but I actually think I've got to the bit that I need to know. The other bits, well, I'm not on stage so it won't matter (laughs).

How are you feeling about the tour? 

I'm really excited, I genuinely enjoy touring. I really do enjoy it because a lot of the time when I'm touring I'm doing day to day to day so it's a different place every day, so this is like a holiday for me. I'm in the same place for a whole week, I'm not doing 56 shows, I'm getting to do the seven shows and that's going to be a dream for me. And of course, I love Dublin. The last time I was there they put me up in a hotel in town, I was so lucky. I mean, it's not cheap, is it? The city itself is just beautiful, it really is gorgeous.

And where did you go when you were in town?

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Well I didn't get to go out because I was working, but I have to go and see Panti at some point because we have had an online correspondence but I've never actually met her. A trip to Penny Lane and Panti Bar.

I suppose this is an absurdist kind of musical, has that been a little more liberating, to be part of a play with less expectation, it doesn't have the weight of a traditional play.

In a way yes, but as somebody on-stage you have to commit even more. If you're doing Shakespeare, the words tell you what you need to do. In this you take yourself out of any kind of realism and you are moving way past that, it's great fun, as a performer it's great fun on-stage, but if you don't commit properly, it doesn't translate, so you really have to go full steam ahead with it. It is very much in that absurdist narrative, it's very like the show itself, the cartoon. It's a joy.

What do you hope people will get out of it? 

I think it's just this gorgeous escapism, it's a moment in the week to just go, right, let's be somewhere completely different, whatever's happening in your life or with the rest of the world, which we know is pretty crazy at the moment, to have the opportunity to escape is great, and Spongebob is just this bundle of aggressive positivity. He's so positive about everything and always looking on the bright side and the other characters are so down on him, and for him it's just water off a duck's back. There's a real magic in that, especially right now.

Were you surprised at your casting? I would have thought you were a bit more of a Spongebob?

Oh, I can't sing high enough, and I am also far too old. Whereas Plankton is an unknown quantity. Well, he's very small, he's a known quantity in that he's very small, but there's no clear age whereas Spongebob is definitely a younger character - I've got a good doctor but not that good.

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The Spongebob Musical comes to Dublin's Bord Gáis Energy Theatre from the 9th to the 13th of May. You can still score tickets on-site, which start from €21.50. 

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