Last night in the West End, I saw a wonderful play called “Smaller,” starring the incredible Dawn French and Alison Moyet. When I was a struggling, fat,
awkward young comic, afraid of everything and everyone, French and Saunders gave me hope for my future. Their world was bursting with possibility, and the most exciting thought that maybe I could be understood by an audience. They laughed at the same things I did, and their fearlessness and dizzying wit came off so smart and unaffected by the cruel and drab reality of male dominated stand up comedy. Watching them made my hopelessness about not being able to get on showcases at comedy clubs and failing at my chosen profession night after night bearable, because there was actually something to work toward. If they could do it, perhaps I could. Maybe one day I could go to London, and say things like “I have come to the realisation that damson is my favourite colour!” and have a tv show where I could give Alison Moyet the wrong directions to the studio so I would be able to sing her song.
I finally met Dawn in Los Angeles, where she interviewed me for a BBC documentary on women comedians, and she asked me insightful questions and I got to fawn all over her. She is a real, real hero of mine, and usually I try to avoid people that I worship, because I have built them up so much in my mind they can only disappoint. Dawn French is anything but a disappointment – she fully lives up to her legend. She’s funny, and fun, warm, beautiful, generous, sexy, brilliant â€“ just like you think she is going to be. And every once in a while, I can actually breathe around her because she’s so nice I forget that she is DAWN FRENCH!!!! OH MY GOD!!!!! I GOT TO HANG OUT WITH DAWN FRENCH!!!!!
The play, “Smaller” is about two sisters, played by Dawn and Alison, (yeah I said ‘Alison’â€“ as if I am on a first name basis with Alison Moyet â€“ this London hobnobbing has really gone to my head â€“ anyway she is genius in the play too, and she sings â€“ yes!) and the difficult job of caring for their aging mother. It’s an incredible production, directed by Kathy Burke, another big hero of mine, and it is a searing, emotionally daring, provocative and heartily satisfying evening. I love it when theatre moves me, because it so rarely does, even though that is the purpose of theatre, to reflect ourselves back to us, and move us.
Thank God Dawn French is out there, getting us back to the real reason plays are powerful…I cried a lot. I have been grieving these days, for many things, and so when I can tap into another artistâ€™s grief, I feel a sense of relief. Itâ€™s like your batteries get low, and you need to charge them on someone elseâ€™s story. If you can, go see “Smaller.” Dawn French, in addition to being one of the world’s finest comedians, is also a heartbreakingly gifted actress. When her lovely smile, which we are all so familiar with, fades, and she starts to crack under the weight of the tragic circumstances which befall her character, you can’t help but cry cry cry, because Dawn French fucking BRINGS IT!!!! You know what I mean? There are not enough tears in the world…. It is a stunning performance, and I hope I get a chance to see it again, but you should go for sure.