Comedian, actor, activist and Eddie Izzard brings his new memoir BELIEVE ME to the stage
As Eddie Izzard’s new memoir BELIEVE ME hits the book stands, the stand-up comedian, actor, writer and political activist opened his national book tour at The Lowry last night. The venue was crammed to the rafters and everyone that had purchased ticket also received a signed copy of ‘Believe Me’ completely gratis, thanks Eddie!
Comedian, actor, activist and staunch labour supporter despite his boarding school upbringing, Eddie is a personal hero of mine. Sharp and witty as ever, he had the place in fits of giggles and guffaws within two minutes of strutting on stage in four inch heeled boots, labour-red lips and a very smart High waist tailored suit.
Introducing his book and explaining that this was an autobiographical tome, the screen behind him lit up and the first of many never seen before photographs and snippets of footage from Izzard’s childhood were shown. We start at the beginning, Eddie’s birthplace, in Aden, Yemen, before the revolution. A brief story of how his parents met and then photos of Eddie and his older brother Mark flash up as the story of his childhood commences.
Eddie, obviously nostalgic, is all smiles as he quips about the early years in Arabia, their mad dash to the safety during the Yemeni revolution over to Northern Ireland, and the re-enactment of his childhood Irish accent, recently rediscovered added yet more comedy to the oration of this particular section of the book.
It is at this point that things take a more sombre turn as Eddie relives the part of his life that saw his Mother’s deterioration of health and eventual death from cancer. Despite this being a solemn moment, he managed to share some touching moments from this period such as his mother’s raven costume creation for his first ever stage performance that still resulted in ripples of laughter throughout the audience. This is the same performance that got Eddie his first laugh from an audience and so began the extremely long path to eventual stardom and the beginning of his career as an ‘action transvestite’.
We are taken through the early years of his education and then told of his near-death experience from ‘gum-in-hedge-disease’. More and more pictures are shown, often showing Eddie’s comedic presence in his personality very early on. “Can you zoom, these things?” he quizzes, trying to magnify the starting line of a childhood sack race, to better show us his father whispering advice to a determined six year old Eddie. At this point a text message interrupts the screen, it’s a question from Twitter – “Heckled by a ping!” he exclaims, “Was that supposed to happen, Sarah?” Sarah Townsend, director of his documentary ‘Believe’ and ex-girlfriend of the comedian. “No Eddie, I was trying to zoom!” cue laughter from the crowd. These two, despite no longer being together, are obviously still great friends as well as collaborators. There is a photo missing however, his conquering moment after trouncing everyone at said school sack-race. “Where’s the picture Sarah, I sent it to you last week?” he shouts off-stage, “the one of me at the finish line?” “I didn’t get it, it didn’t come through!” “Well, it’ll be on the web, just google it Sarah, Christ?!?” so she did!
The show is obviously a little rough around the edges and a little un-rehearsed and ad-libbed but isn’t that exactly Eddie’s style? Mentioned are his oft familiar go to’s such as frying pans, God, jam and chickens. He shows us just how great he truly is in front of a live audience and explains how a year and a half of street performing honed this skill despite it briefly breaking down all his self-confidence at one point in his life.
I feel I know Eddie a little more after this, even though I’ve followed his career closely in the past, this performance was a much more in-depth and personal one and we see a real, rawer Eddie.
I have watched him defy normality, running 27 marathons in 27 days. I’ve seen him campaign for equality and after last night, his announcement of his intention to stand as a Labour MP in 2020 makes me hopeful, knowing he could truly bring something dazzling and different to politics given a new platform.
As usual there was a lot of audience participation, shouts and heckles from the crowd all handled with humour and grace, a really great evening whereby I, quite ironically, laughed all of my eye makeup clean off!
Eddie Izzard: BELIEVE ME tours nationally until July 2017.
Lola Maguire leases cars by day and has evolved to live off movies, books, gin and sarcasm; probably the best cheese eater in the world. Guitarist and singer in a band, co-creator of two kids, currently writes for Frankly My Dear.