Have you ever arrived at a theatre ready for the show with virtually no idea of what you were going to see? I have. I had a friend who would ask if I was available to go to the theatre on a particular day and I would arrive knowing only that it was opera or the ballet.
Last evening, a similar thing happened. I arrived to meet my friend at the Colston Hall in Bristol and although I knew we were seeing David Sedaris, I had no idea who he was or what he did. I had tweeted about my forthcoming evening and got this tweet back ‘Observations on life, families, funny. Kind of American camp New York version of Alan Bennett. Kind of!’ so I was intrigued.
The description I had been sent was certainly along the right lines. He is a very personable chap who tells stories and like all good story tellers, there is humour among the observations. David writes his stories and then reads them to his audience. He started by explaining that his collection of narrative essays ‘ Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls’ had been prompted by wanting to provide pieces for students to use in various debating competitions that are held across the United States. Rather than learning non-fiction texts, pieces like ‘ Think Differenter’, which starts out to look at expressions that Americans tend to over use but ends with a sharp commentary on US gun laws, provide the student with a more in-depth discourse.
He then went onto read a piece from ‘Squirrel seeks Chipmonk’ which is a collection of stories written from the viewpoint and voice of different animals. This one was from an Irish setter and David apologised for not using an Irish brogue as the tale about an unfaithful companion, her hysterectomy and the savaging of a little girl was told.
Much of his performance was spent talking about his family and although we all have stories to tell of our siblings, the Sedaris family does provide a wealth of situations both comic and tragic. The suicide of his sister Tiffany started with humour but the audience was soon silent with the sadness of the tale.
David shared his obsession with litter picking. He cannot understand our reluctance to dispose of our rubbish in the appropriate way and had us all howling with laughter but agreeing with him when he asked what was the purpose behind dog owners hanging the plastic bags containing their pets litter in trees. ‘Are they trying to grow them?’ he asked.
He finished the evening with a selection of pieces from his diaries. Again, much laughter and head nodding as many of us could remember or picture the scenes he was recounting.
The packed theatre should have told me it was going to be good. It was an altogether very enjoyable evening. It is good to stretch those laughter muscles at the same time as being made to think a little more deeply about everyday life and the situations we get ourselves into. If you get the chance to be in his company, David Sedaris is definitely worth a couple of hours of your time!