The name Dawn French is synonymous with rib achingly funny sketch comedy with shows such as the Vicar of Dibley,  French and Saunders, Jam and Jerusalem and appearances on Comic Relief. I consider Dawn a big asset to British culture, a rock of a woman with small stature and blooming giant heart.

Wednesday night was the first in Blackpool for Dawn French’s – 30 Million Minutes and it was an astounding piece of humbling art and performance and love. The title, 30 Million Minutes stands for the almost exact number of minutes French has been on this earth, now at age 56.

Thirty million sounds alot, but in her first few opening lines, the comedienne wished the biggest wish that has passed everyone’s mind: she wished for a pause in life; a fermata, the prolongation of a note, tone or pause in music, past its indicated time. That is French’s ultimate wish;  to catch up, have a nap, snog the dog and cause some mischief before returning to the soundscape of her life and loves. One can only dream.  French bemoans the fact that technically she has been alive for longer than she has left to go, “how can that be?” she asks.  It’s a short space between finishing the menopause and having dementia.

Many of us arrived at the beautiful Grand Theatre expecting the usual bashful, hilarious comedy legend to perform, poke fun at us and tell some gags.  What I found, and adored, was an evening of humour and humanity. The performance is is an autobiographical wonder, a well written and executed show which revealed loving and painful truths about the background and life of a national treasure that I’ve grown up idolising as a role model. A topsy turvy rollercoaster of a life, it’s 30 million minutes slotted into 120.

As many celebrities find, the unnerving interest from the public and paparazzi in the details of the French and, former husband, Lenny Henry’s life is vulgar and doesn’t touch the surface of the precious and poignant moments, anecdotes of which the audience could instantly relate to and empathise with.  Throughout the show there was an equal measure of feelings of intense respect, shock, and utter hilarity, people recognising this superb woman as an emotional, feeling, loving human being who has suffered and flourished through quite a bit more than one would imagine.

Dawn French took us through a guided tour of her personal self, visualised by a catalogue of photos, diagrams, dance and even song. French told us the troubles of having big norks and a belly which is level with her bum, a lousy reproductive system which caused her the pain and heartbreak of being unable to produce a child and the trauma of a bathroom examination of her mum’s muff.

The show held up a mirror to many, sharing triumphs of the love and protection of a doting father, the pain and confusion of losing him to suicide, moments of painfully low self esteem, finding a daughter and being strong enough to know when a relationship was in stale mate, to finally finding her sacrificial anode in her second husband, Mark Bignell.

Though scripted and well rehearsed, 30 Million Minutes is an engaging and heart warming show and we were made to feel that we now know The Dawn French. She is quite possibly even funnier than in her usual guise. She described every performer  as an ‘oversized toddler vying for attention’. Dawn left us with one final sentiment, “We’re all fucking wankers, and we’re marvellous.”


Dawn French’s one woman show, 30 Million Minutes is touring the country until December. She will be performing at Blackpool Grand Theatre on 3 and 4 of September.

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