WORDS WEEKEND REVIEW: Marian Keyes @ Sage Gateshead (07.12.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Dean Chalkley

Marian Keyes has pulled a decent crowd, despite an early admission that she’s never spoken to a room this size. Her conversational partner Laura Jane Williams succeeds in extracting some jubilation from an early afternoon audience. The first warm up question concerns shoes: heels or flats? I wonder what I’m in for.

After the opening volley of questions there’s more substance. Keyes speaks poignantly about her turbulent relationship with alcohol and how reading a short story set her on the path toward writing, recalibrating her emotional expression from the bottle to the pen. Recollecting an episode of anxiety in her later life, Keyes shares that it was the act of baking that calmed her this time. Whether stacking sentences or short crust, it was the slow methodical process of creating that brought her back to equilibrium. An apt message for the audience members with less life experience.

The Q&A unfortunately spends two more questions on shoes (“Have you ever worn wedges?”) but it’s mostly concerned with Keyes’ books: when will there be more and will she revisit beloved characters? The demand is palpable. Keyes exits to a gradually standing ovation and on my way out I walk past a kid in the foyer stood on a box reciting a rather polemical poem about climate change – I like to think the soapbox was an ironic performative flourish on his behalf. It’s clear he’s got some heavy stuff on his mind, and like all good writers he’s working through it one sentence at a time.

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