17-20 September 2014
Reviewed by Louise Platt
I had the pleasure of being among the jam-packed audience at Milton Keynes Theatre last night, all there to watch Dawn French in her new stage show – 30 Million Minutes.
I’ve grown up with this funny lady and loved her in her various former TV guises but I never realised just how much I like her until last night. Dawn explains that the show’s name derives from her age (56), namely how at the age of 56, she has been on this earth for 30 million minutes (or so). She then proceeds to take us on a journey through her life to date (which she is keen to do while she can i.e. before dementia sets in – her words not mine).
I didn’t know very much about Dawn other than the roles she has played, her marriage to comedian Lenny Henry and her adopted daughter Billie – oh and the whole recent weight loss/transformation which sparked a media frenzy. I did know she is very funny and she did not disappoint on that score. The show lasts for 120 minutes with a short interval and it is Dawn and Dawn alone up on that stage for the entire time with a stream of visuals and graphics to illustrate her many anecdotal stories and tales of her life.
She starts off with her childhood and we are treated to the story about when the Queen Mother came to tea at her parents’ house. The story itself is hilarious (I won’t spoil it) but when she then pulls some old cine footage out of the bag which shows the Royal Visit and Dawn as a 3 year old shaking hands with the Royal Visitor the entire audience she nails it and the entire audience are in fits.
She takes us through her life story basically with humour and hilarity in bucket loads and a depth of honesty and frankness that must take huge amounts of courage and guts. This is Dawn French laid BARE, warts and all. She talks about her family, her inspiration, her self-esteem and body issues. She confides in us all about how she has got to where she is today and who helped to get her there.
All the topics which you might expect her to avoid are brought out into the open. Her marriage to and divorce from Lenny. Her inability to have a baby of her own and subsequent adoption of their daughter Billie. The suicide of her dear father (warning this part is particularly harrowing to listen to so take lots of tissues). What life is like in the media spotlight, her challenges, tragedies, achievements and great joys. One minute I was sobbing, the next I was crying with laughter as she moves from the tragic story of her father’s death to the description of having to inspect her mother’s genitalia for broken glass (yes honestly).
She covers BOYS, Bodies, Norks and Knickers and is happy to share her bra size and show us that her tummy and legs are far from waif like… She also shows that she is a caring, loving, emotional, and incredibly inspirational lady who is willing and able to get up on stage and bare all in such a blunt, and open but entirely endearing and entertaining manner.
Dawn French captivated the audience for the entire show with her incredible stage presence. The use of graphics and music and some sound effects was spot on and her comic timing perfect. She even showed us some of her groovy moves. Absolutely unmissable.
I cannot recommend this show highly enough. If you get the chance GO SEE IT!!!!
For anyone new to Milton Keynes Theatre it’s a great, modern venue. There are wonderful facilities there and it is worth getting there early if you fancy a pre show drink in the lovely Piano Bar or even upgrading and treating yourself to the Ambassador Experience. Parking is also easy and free in the evenings.
Tickets cost from £39.90 to £44.40 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
Dawn French: 30 Million Minutes is at the Milton Keynes Theatre until 20 September 2014. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 8717652.
Milton Keynes Theatre, 500 Marlborough Gate, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK9 3NZ