Reviewer: Clare Boswell
Eddie Izzard is a remarkable man. From avidly watching his many shows over the years, including Dressed to Kill, Unrepeatable and Glorious it is undoubtable that Izzard is a first-class stand-up. However, what has become apparent since then is his many other talents ranging from acting through to his gargantuan feat of running 27 marathons in 27 days. Therefore, it is no great surprise that at the age of 55, Izzard has decided to tick another task off his bucket list with the release of his autobiography Believe Me and fans were treated to a reading of excerpts from his book at the Lowry Theatre on Sunday evening.
‘Treated’ is the right term to use here as one certainly felt honoured to be a guest at this event. Izzard was his usual dynamic self, offering just enough comedy material to keep the evening moving with the pace and energy that you have come to expect in his stand-up shows. However, what was even more endearing was Izzard’s sharing of the more personal moments of his life. These were delivered with a frank and fleeting honesty, almost as if some of these moments, particularly those concerning his mother whom Izzard lost when he was six years of age, were still a little too painful to ponder on for too long. The result was extremely moving and it was difficult not to be touched by Izzard’s description of his watch (an item which he wears to this day) as the ‘last thing his mother touched’.
Eddie Izzard also shares many photographs and videos of his childhood which are delightful and his on-going rapport with his producer Sarah (positioned in the stage left wing struggling to get to grips with the technical elements of the show) just further adds to the authentic and intimate mood of the evening. There are many other pivotal events in his life that he also focuses on with moving candour. His coming out as a transvestite in 1985 is another area that he explores and his encounter with a gaggle of teenage girls during his first public outing dressed in women’s clothing is a noteworthy highlight. His recounting of his early ‘street performance’ days are also charming and it is clear where many of his surreal characters in his later shows have originated from.
Believe Me is a difficult piece to critique as it is not a show in the traditional sense of the word. One gets the impression that, in true Izzard ‘molten’ fashion, the material and structure changes quite drastically from place to place and the technical elements were a little haphazard. However, this was all part of its charm. Eddie Izzard has done something which would be a terrifying concept for many performers. He has stripped away the barriers and given a candid account of his life so far. The result is an expectantly funny yet emotionally charged evening.
Another highpoint was Izzard’s answering of questions which had been tweeted in by the audience. One question which asked what he would be doing if he hadn’t gone into comedy, allowed him to talk about his clear love of politics and his work as an activist in this area. Izzard ended the evening talking about the need for more hope in our world and what could be a more optimistic thought for the future than a 2020 election with Eddie Izzard on the ballot paper? Believe me was a mesmerising show full of pathos, authenticity and entertainment and I would urge anyone who wasn’t lucky enough to share this special evening with the man himself, to buy the book and find out more about what drives one of the leading stand-up comedians of our generation.
Reviewed on 2 June 2017 | Image: Contributed