By Leah Victoria
Artist: Dawn French
Date / Venue: Tuesday March 29th, 2016 - Civic Theatre, Auckland
Seeing British Comic Dawn French on stage alone is a little strange, since we’ve always known her as one half of French & Saunders, or surrounded by other weird and wonderful characters throughout her 3-decade career.
The BAFTA winning comedienne/actress/writer takes to the stage and greets a full house for the second night at Auckland’s Civic Theatre, complimenting them on being so good looking.
Looking so much smaller in the flesh than I had imagined her to be, her larger than life personality soon fills the venue and warms the atmosphere.
French begins her performance explaining the title of this tour, 30 Million Minutes. That’s approximately how many minutes she has been living, and how at this stage of her life, probably more than half way through, she is experiencing some what of a “Fermata” – an unspecified amount of time between menopause and dementia.
And so begins this autobiographical solo debut, as she takes us on a journey of the most personal moments of her life.
Supported by real family photos and video footage on the big screen behind her, we are taken back to times that include a 3-year-old Dawn being disgusted by the Queen Mother on a visit to her RAF base home, a Cypress beach where she was regularly left to snorkel with her brother for hours on end without a drop of sunscreen on, and a south coast café where she discovered her fascination with boys as a teen.
With her background in stand up comedy and acting, French delivers her memoirs with hilarious anecdotes and physical re enactments, treating us to amusing scenes of her singing into a hairbrush, and giving her mother an intimate helping hand!
The light hearted jokes aside, we all have our darker moments in life, and Dawn is no exception. There is a slight change in tone as she discusses her difficulties with having a child, and her struggles with IVF treatment.
Her live delivery becomes her pre recorded voice as the stage falls into a smokey darkness and we hear the tragic story of her father’s suicide. Her absence on stage during this moment only highlights how painful a subject it is to talk about, even for this self proclaimed confident attention seeker.
She talks about her dad throughout the performance, it’s clear how much she misses the man who gave her the armour she still wears today and the regret she feels having only known him for the first 19 years of her life.
30 Million Minutes represents the filing away of past events, and the turn of a fresh chapter. Although feeling a little scripted at times, Dawns open invitation into her soul will have you enthralled like a book you just can’t put down.
It’s a show with the ability to make you laugh, cry and totally reassess your life all within 120 mins.
30 Million Minutes is on at The Civic until Sat 2 April, and tickets are selling out fast.