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Dawn French: Thirty Million Minutes (Tour - Blackpool)

More monologue than stand up, Sandra Mangan is impressed by Dawn French's exploration of Thirty Million Minutes.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Dawn French

The pre-publicity billed this show as Dawn French's return to stand up, but in truth it is more of a monologue – forget Michael McIntyre or John Bishop; think more along the lines of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads.

French is 56, and the 30 million minutes of the title refer to the length of time she has been alive. As she points out, although she's classed as middle aged these days, she is nearer the end of her life than the start – and as her story unfolds, we realise that the past has played a huge influence on who she is today. But then, surely, that could apply to any of us?

There are few people who could turn their experiences into such an accomplished show, however. In 120 minutes, a packed audience was taken on a roller coaster ride of emotions – one minute we were laughing hysterically, the next fumbling for the tissues.

Because behind that jolly exterior lurks a woman who has seen sadness and despair, in spades. The poignancy of her failure to have her own baby, the subsequent adoption of her daughter, Billie, and the break-up of her marriage to Lenny Henry were all explored, but it was the no-holds-barred description of her father's suicide that had my tears flowing.

Don't however, think that this memoir is all sadness. Women of a certain age will fully sympathise with Dawn's fashion faux pas (purple suede hot pants were a case in point), and there was an audible sigh when a pin-up shot of David Cassidy flashed up on the stage backdrop.

It was an evening of contrasts, as barbed comments about the press coverage of her weight loss (as she prepared for a hysterectomy, it transpires) were tempered by revelations that she had a crush on Val Doonican and Nana Mouskouri and is addicted to Big Brother.

Perhaps the audience was most comfortable with the familiar routes of French's humour, such as her love of chocolate, but they were prepared to go along for the ride and the evening ended to rapturous applause with many of the crowd on their feet.

Dawn French is at the Grand Theatre until tonight - 4 September and continues touring the UK.

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