After a successful and critically acclaimed UK tour, Dawn French’s one-woman show arrives at the Vaudeville Theatre for a short West End run.
The show lasts for a bit over two hours and as it says on the tin, is just Dawn alone on the stage. But this isn’t stand-up as such. It isn’t a barrage of non-stop gags. Although there are laughs aplenty and many hilarious moments, there are also moments of poignancy and often heart-wrenching sadness as Dawn takes us on a journey through the 30 million minutes of her life with an often brutal honesty and frankness.
She is a natural storyteller and the emphasis here is very much on family. The stories of her growing up and anecdotes about her mother, father and brother are told with warmth and a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humour. The obvious love for those closest to her is tangible and quite touching.
Aided by projected home movies and photographs, Dawn breaks the show down into sections: How to Be a Daughter, How to Be a Wife, How to Be a Mother etc and a hilarious sequence where she analyses her own body shape.
It takes a little while to get going and the second half is stronger than the first as she really gets into her stride. It becomes an emotional rollercoaster for the audience as life seems to have been for Dawn as we move from the day that an almost unbearable tragedy engulfed her family to the joy of becoming a mother to adopted daughter Billie.
And if anyone has come for an evening of showbiz anecdotes they will be disappointed. While she briefly pays tribute to her long-standing friends, Dawn’s world clearly revolves around immediate relations. Not that she paints a continually rosy picture of that; she doesn’t for example shy away from the breakdown of her marriage to Lenny Henry.
But while this is a hugely personal show, there is plenty here we can all relate to; the new outfit that we loved at the time, but now look back on with horror, for example. And we all have the quirky family members that are by turns a source of amusement and embarrassment — Dawn’s two grandmothers deserve a show all to themselves.
Reviewed by Tony Peters
Dawn French: Thirty Million Minutes is playing at the Vaudeville Theatre until 9 December 2015. Click here to book tickets