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Oxford New Theatre, Oxford Show on Tour

This is a captivating, often hilarious, sometimes poignant and always engaging two hours with Dawn French. I started by thinking I might write about a few quibbles, but it is pointless to do so because they are so trivial and because it means giving away some of the jokes or routines that emerge from the very strong line of the show. Basically, it is a very brilliant and very moving evening in the theatre in the company of a consummate show woman; and Dawn French holds the audience in thrall for two solid hours!

The title of the show refers to how long (give or take a few minutes) she has been alive; and it tells the story of her life so far and of what she has learned living it. It is overtly personal and autobiographical and it tells many stories you can either relate to or empathize with. It is often politically incorrect; and it makes clever use of media such as film, recordings and captions. There is, therefore, lots of visual variety, though it is a one-woman show.

Dawn French talks about things you may have read in papers, magazines and books over the years; and she also deals with things you will be discovering for the first time. This is her life. Since there was a lot of fuss about her divorce from Lenny Henry and severe journalistic intrusions not only into her own private life but into the privacy of her daughter, I reckon there is a degree to which Dawn French is regaining some control over the public perception of her personal tale. She has every right to do this. She does it in ways that are entertaining, informative and, at times, almost painfully moving. She is also doing it with great wit and she touches on everything from her gynaecological problems through her relationships with her family through the suicide of her father. She also deals, at one point, with the idea that she does not have the most conventionally beautiful face or figure. What she proves, however, through this evening is that that much talent, wit, warmth and intelligence is its own kind of beauty.

I predict that if you see this show you will come away thinking that Dawn French is a feisty, humane woman who can make you laugh with total sympathy at the human frailties we all share or observe in our lives. You will also come away thinking that the Vicar of Dibley was type casting. You will probably also come away wishing you could invite Dawn French round for a drink or a meal and some serious personal time together. Seeing this show is the next best thing and is highly recommended.

  • One Woman Show
  • By Dawn French
  • Oxford New Theatre, Oxford Show on Tour
  • Until 3rd July 2014
  • Time: 20.00
  • Review by Mel Cooper
  • 3rd July 2014

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Canadian-born Mel Cooper first came to the UK to study English Literature at Oxford University and stayed. He was captivated by the culture and history of Britain, which he found to be a welcoming and tolerant country. After working in highly illustrated, non-fiction publishing for over a decade, he founded and edited the magazine Opera Now. Since then he has worked as a consultant to the Japanese broadcaster NHK, a broadcaster on British Satellite Broadcasting, a maker of audio shows and arts critic for several airlines, and as one of the team that started Britain’s first commercial classical music radio station, Classic FM, on which he was both a classical music DJ and creator and presenter of shows like Classic America and Authentic Performance. Throughout this period, he also lectured in music and literature in London and Oxford and published short stories in Canada. After working with the Genesis Foundation on helping to fund arts projects, he continues to write, review and lecture on music and literature. His first novel has just been published as an e-book. The title is City of Dreams. It is the first volume of a projected saga called The Dream Bearers. You can find the Kindle version of the book on Amazon.

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