Another West End run for French’s honest, charming and very funny solo show
Following a mammoth UK tour in 2015, the 'French' half of 'French and Saunders' and star of 'The Vicar of Dibley' brings her solo show back to the Vaudeville Theatre this autumn, for one last hurrah.
Read our review of the 2015 London show:
‘Who am I?’ asks Dawn French, at the top of her first ever solo show. Indeed, without Jennifer ‘Fatty’ Saunders by her side to play dress-up with, this is French out of character, talking openly and honestly.
At 58 (or roughly 30 million minutes, as she prefers), French is more than halfway through her life. This is the only time, she says, ‘between the madness of my menopause and the impending madness of my dementia to tell you about things I know’.
It’s an autobiographical show – more monologue than stand-up – as the former Comic Strip member whizzes us through her childhood up to the present day and examines who she is to others: mother, wife, sister, daughter… She talks about her family in slightly corny metaphors, but she sells them: you believe that’s how she feels.
The show is tightly directed by Michael Grandage. Every movement and expression is honed for maximum humour or emotion, yet it never feels rigid or cold; there’s still a looseness to French’s delivery that’s warm and charming.
Stories of meeting the Queen Mother or re-enacting the time she helped her own mother out with an intimate problem get big laughs, and French wonderfully plays up her physicality. But it’s the sensitive moments that have the biggest impact.
A section on coming to terms with her body – a ‘shell’ that the media obsess on – leads French into talking openly about her IVF treatment and eventual hysterectomy; and a tribute to her father, who committed suicide when she was 19, is a near-poem, played as a voiceover.
This is French showing us who she really is and introducing the people who have shaped her. Sure, it strays close to motivational-speaker territory, but it feels urgent and passionate, while even in its darkest moments, it’s unfailingly optimistic. So, 120 minutes in Dawn French’s company is just as delightful as you’d expect.