REVIEW: David Sedaris @ Tyne Theatre & Opera House, Newcastle (17.07.18) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Most people keep their diary somewhere safe. Under their pillow, beside their bed, or maybe on a bookcase. David Sedaris prefers to publish his diaries worldwide, read them aloud in front of hundreds of people, or broadcast them on BBC Radio 4 in his programme Meet David Sedaris.

Sedaris started keeping a diary in 1977, and hasn’t stopped since; “I was with my best friend hitch-hiking up through the Pacific Northwest, California, Oregon, Washington, picking apples. I was writing letters to my friends and family, but I didn’t have an address for them to write me back. So I just started one day writing to myself. If you had asked me the day before that I was gonna do it, start keeping a diary tomorrow and that it would be so completely central to my life… I have a lot to write about so I have to do it before I can do anything else.”

The North Carolina export stopped by Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre & Opera House as part of his bi-annual book tour to impart some new and some previously unheard material from his daily antics. Anyone who’s listened to his radio show or read one of his books, will be aware of Sedaris’ extraordinary ability to transform even the most menial of events into comedy genius. His live recitals are no different. Except, in these performances, you have the opportunity to hear pieces deemed too risky for the BBC and raw extracts from even the most recent of entries.

This week, for example, Sedaris has become obsessed with the violent behaviours of seagulls against native fowl. His favourite is his account of a gull decapitated and eating a pigeon in Newcastle city centre. Gruesome, I know, but it’s not that surprising for those who know his history with morbidity (taxidermy is a particular interest). His uncanny and unfailing ability to derive humour from gory subjects such as these is what makes his stories so unique and interesting.

However, his new essay on road-rage induced insults from around the world may be a little difficult for the standard Radio 4 audience to stomach; even a sanitised version of the examples Sedaris has collected from around the world would be too much to include. I can at least say that in Bulgaria, the most creative revolve around soiling the memorial cake traditionally baked and served at your mother’s funeral wake.

Such a filthy and humourous account was a good balance for his other recital: a downright heartbreaking account of his family’s discussions following the suicide of his sister, Tiffany Sedaris, who passed away in 2013. It’s not easy to approach a subject as sensitive as this, but breaking the silence instilled by the discussion surrounding the coroner’s report during a night-time walk along the beach with his sister Lisa’s request for him to tie her shoelace (because her “pants are tight and bending over his uncomfortable”) was the oddly clarifying moment this tale needed.

David Sedaris knows how to balance self-deprecation and brutal honesty with surrealism and mismatched humour, and that is what makes all of his stories such an honour to consume.

 

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