Reviewer: Iain Sykes
The afternoon timing of An Evening With Gervase Phinn seems to throw the man himself a little off beam as he begins the show with a hastily swallowed “Good evening” before launching into his afternoon of recollections and stories from his days as a school inspector. Quoting Oscar Wilde and William Shakespeare on the innocence of children, the author and raconteur (among many other things) tells his tales of nativity plays going wrong, of teachers sending children as Ofsted inspector lookouts, and of intellectual heavyweight nuns.
As anybody who has read any of Phinn’s books will know, he always treats his subjects with respect and a light-hearted humour, finding the funny side in situations he has encountered and always laughing along with, rather than laughing at, the subjects of his keen sense of humour. This translates perfectly into his stage show. An exceptional storyteller, he carries the audience along with him with his effortless natural charm and easy going persona. The audience feels right there in the school hall with the reluctant Marys and over-confident Josephs in his routine about nativity plays that brings a seasonal feel (along with his festive jacket and waistcoat) to the first half of the show.
The gentle, teasing humour continues through the whole show with Phinn bringing out his favourite Malapropisms, misuses of the language, and even more stories of his adventures in schools, a vocation for which he has a genuine affection that communicates easily to his audience. The nun, a headmistress of a certain Catholic school who answered the phone “This is the head of St John the Baptist speaking” was a particular favourite. Outside of the school tales, the stories of his visits to the old people’s home show the measure of the man and the effectiveness of a good old chat.
An evening (or afternoon) with Gervase Phinn is time spent in the company of a genuine, delightful man with a deft touch for spinning a story and a love of the English language. Needless to say, this reviewer is taking extra care with the apostrophes here, lest Mr Phinn, the former English teacher ever get to mark this review.
Reviewed on 30th November 2014