It’s been approximately a thousand minutes since I sat down in my chair in the Hexagon theatre in Reading and photo bombed the selfie of the woman in front of me.
I was there to watch Dawn French perform her one woman show ’30 Million Minutes’ – the premise of which is that that is roughly the amount of minutes that French has been alive.
It is an autobiographical show, one in which Dawn tries to look back on her life and make sense of it. She says at the very beginning that she feels like she’s in a transition phase between one part of her life to another, and that this show is about stopping, taking a pause and trying to make sense of everything.
To that effect, it’s important to note that is not stand-up. It’s not gag after gag. It’s Dawn French telling the audience about all the things that have made her who she is.
She talks about her childhood, her mum, her dad, her brother and her grandparents. She tells a few anecdotes – including one about the Queen Mother – none of which will be new news to anyone who has read her 2007 autobiography Dear Fatty, but it’s great to hear them told by her, and makes it that little bit better.
French talks candidly about her father’s depression and subsequent suicide, her battles – not with weight loss – but with those weight loss headlines that dogged her for a while some years ago and her fierce protectiveness of her adoptive daughter Billie. She mentions her divorce from Lenny Henry after thirty years and some of the racism that they encountered as a mixed race couple, some of which is quite shocking.
But it’s still Dawn French telling these stories, she’s a funny woman. Her style of delivery is naturally funny, and while there are still tears rolling down your face after hearing about her father, you’re almost on the floor with laughter as she starts telling you about her mother’s growler.
It’s a brilliant show, and you can’t help but feel you’ve gotten to know Dawn a little bit better than you might have done before. The show’s warmth and candid nature makes you feel like you’ve spent the evening with a friend – and it spilt over for us.
We ended the evening sat in a bar with the two women – two strangers – who’s selfie we photo bombed earlier in the evening, and that is in no small part due to the way that Dawn made us feel. Friendly, open, and a little bit silly.
30 Million Minutes is on tour now with dates currently running until December – I highly recommend getting to see if you can.