St David’s Hall, Cardiff, Mon 1 June
The atmosphere in the foyer at St David’s Hall prior to this show is one of gentle anticipation. The punters are casually milling around, laughing and joking with friends and strangers alike and having a thoroughly pleasant time. Over the theatre’s PA, the announcer tells us the show will begin in three minutes, but David Sedaris – the star of the show – is still chatting happily to fans and writing witty and lewd messages in their freshly purchased books. Inside the theatre itself, one lady admonishes anyone who isn’t in their seats by half past seven, but gets beaten down by a few dozen deathly stares. Everyone is happy to wait.
Despite publishing his essays for over 20 years and reading them aloud on his now mammoth tour schedule for almost as long, it’s only in the last five years or so that 58-year-old Sedaris has started reeling in the British public. Thanks in no small part to a hit Radio 4 show Meet David Sedaris, his UK audience has grown considerably during this time and a little under 1,500 souls have braved unseasonal torrential rain to be here this evening.
The diminutive Sedaris arrives onstage with a shuffle, dwarfed by the auditorium surrounding him, and the podium he stands behind offers a view only of his head and shoulders from some sections of the theatre. The first part of the evening – the bulk of it, in fact – sees him reading from his more recent work, including an account of purchasing a family beach house in his native North Carolina, and his tireless efforts to rid the streets and country roads of litter in his current residence of Horsham.
As with many of his essays and short stories, there are as many poignant moments as hilarious, sometimes shocking anecdotes. His descriptions of his relationship with his 92-year-old father Lou provide plenty of laughs, but there is also time for the room to fall silent when Sedaris throws in a sorrowful interlude. Yet these aren’t uncomfortable silences, but rather Sedaris’s skilful way of building a relationship with his audience and gaining an even greater response when he reaches the inevitable killer line.
We are then treated to a ‘scratch’ performance of some of his recent diary entries. It’s messy for sure; Sedaris’s usually faultless delivery is reduced to the shuffling of papers and endless apologies, but the grinning and bearing is well worth it in the end. If his story of trying to feed a tumour to a turtle wasn’t shocking enough during the main event, mentions of paedophilia, rape and murder generate plenty of open jaws and some audible nervous laughter.
There is also a quick Q & A section at the end of the evening, but Sedaris can only work with what he’s given. Sadly on this occasion, that wasn’t very much at all. We could have benefited from a ‘classic’ essay at the end as a pick-me-up, but nonetheless upon leaving the theatre, the punters are casually milling around, laughing and joking with friends and strangers alike, having had a thoroughly pleasant time.
words BEN GALLIVAN