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Review: Dawn French - 30 Million Minutes at The Orchard Theatre, Dartford

Holding down a career which throws your life into the public eye while still maintaining some privacy is not easy.

Some manage to do it, but the higher your star rises, the more interested people become.

Dawn French has clearly had more than a brush with journalists who only want to dig the dirt (we’re not all like that, Dawn, honest) but perhaps that’s why she embarked on her tour. When something has been written about you that isn’t true, you want to set the record straight.

Dawn French
Dawn French

Dawn’s latest show is 30 Million Minutes - at 56, roughly the amount of time she reckons she’s been alive.

The show begins with Dawn making a plea for the world to stop for a bit, so she has the chance to catch up. She then walks, talks, dances and sings (badly) her way through a photo album of her life.

Anecdotes, both laugh-out-loud and heart-wrenchingly sad, fill the show in a way that by the end of it, you feel like you’ve been out for a really good catch up with a mate.

It’s Dawn’s This is Your Life moment, without Eamonn Andrews and the big red book.

If you have read her memoir, Dear Fatty – a collection of letters which gives snapshots into her life – some of these tales will be familiar. Others are new.

One minute she’s making us laugh with stories of her playing in the Cyprus sun as a child, another she’s sharing her innermost pain.

There is one moment which even for Dawn, it seems, is too much for her to bear.

Instead, the performance switches from live speech to a pre-recorded section, where she talks through the wide-swinging range of emotions she felt - and still feels - after her father took his own life, and how she has tried to come to terms with continuing to love someone whose final act caused so much pain.

It wasn’t the only part of the show that left the audience sighing aloud in sympathy and some (alright then, me) shedding a silent tear.

It is brutally honest, from how she feels about her body, to the relationships she’s had throughout her life with friends, family and lovers. Just wait until you find out more about good Nan and evil Nan.

Holding an audience’s attention single-handedly for 120 minutes is no mean feat, and if you’re expecting barrel of laughs stand-up, this isn’t for you.

But if you’re after a slickly written, uplifting trip down memory lane, grab yourself a ticket if you still can.

Dawn French’s 30 Million Minutes tour is at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre until Saturday, August 2. Tickets from £35. Call 01322 220000. The show moves on to the Tunbridge Wells’ Assembly Hall Theatre on Friday, September 5 and Saturday, September 6. Tickets £39.50. Call 01892 530613. From Monday, September 8, until Friday, September 12, Dawn is at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre.

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