Gig Review: Sue Perkins at the Millennium Centre, Cardiff

This was a very late birthday present from MWF, and a decent pick for us as both are big fans of Perkins and I had read the memoir which formed the basis of the show, which I reviewed here.

As with the book this is a warm and funny look back over her life with Perkins casting a wry, self deprecating eye over her past and family. It’s hugely entertaining and aided by the use of a large screen which allows her to deliver visual punchlines and poke gentle fun at old family photos.

She has an easy on stage presence and is utterly charming throughout, and talks about her career, life and opinions in a light, breezy way. Some of the stories are familiar to those who have read the book, but are given fresh life through the telling.

I particularly enjoyed that she included a brief Q&A session at the end, which gave her a chance to play off the crowd and share some new stories. The whole show is a quick, fun affair and ends strongly with Perkins playing us out with a song. It’s a thoroughly pleasant evening in the theatre and confirms that Perkins is an extremely likeable and funny performer. 

MWF and I loved it and throughout recommend catching her if she comes to your town.

Verdict: A very funny show with Perkins on top form, delivering an amusing and charming series of stories. And her skills at playing off the crowd are wonderful. 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


My 10 Favourite Books of 2016

As ever split into fiction and nonfiction. Fiction first.

5. Deception Point by Dan Brown

Brown isn’t the best writer and some of the characterisation and dialogue is wooden but you can’t deny he crafts an easy pageturner and I ploughed through this.

4. Lady Killer by Ed McBain

When the detectives get a note taunting them about a murder which will be committed in twelve hours it kicks off a ticking clock thriller as they try to work out who the killer is, as well as their target. Proves writing under pressure works.

3. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

A warm easy read about life, death, fate and the connections we form in our lives. A nice read and wonderfully unpretentious. Review.

2. Ex-Purgatory and Ex-Isle by Peter Clines

Clines’ superheroes vs zombies series gets better and better with two clever installments. The first sees a bizarre parallel universe and the second sees the heroes discover a new group of survivors while tensions mount back at home. Quality stuff and the full reviews are here and here.

1.  Killer’s Wedge by Ed McBain

I am loving McBain’s Precinct 87 series and this is probably the best yet. It starts with a woman entering the detectives’ office and announcing she has explosives in her bag. The rest of the book is a tense face-off as the cops try to work out what to do and Steve Carella, her target makes his way for the precinct. Full review here.

Honourable mentions, all the other Precinct 87 books I read and Adrian’s Undead Diary by Chris Philbrook. 

And now nonfiction.
5. Spectacles by Sue Perkins

Perkins’ memoir is warm, funny and incredibly moving in places. I liked her going in but I liked her even more afterwards. A real gem. Review.

4. A Life Inside by Erwin James

An honest, clever look into the life of a prisoner James has a knack for observation and telling quick, short stories which are still insightful. Full review.

3. Are You Dave Gorman?/Too Much Information by Dave Gorman (and Danny Wallace)

Massive fan of Gorman and his funny, fussy and friendly writing. Whether looking for his namesakes or examining the weird customs and conventions of modern life, he is an affable, funny narrator and I enjoyed both books.

2. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Ronson delves into the world of online jobs and shaming in a clever, funny and well researched book. He writes with compassion and he goes off in different directions. Review.

1. Playing the Enemy by John Carlin

A book that moved me immensely, delving into the political and personal stories behind Nelson Mandela’s ambitions for the 1995 Rugby World Cup. The great man comes across wonderfully and the optimism and healing powers of sport had me quite misty eyed. My full review here.

Honourable mentions The Football Neutral by Jim Smallman and D-Day Through German Eyes by Holger Eckhertz.
Any recommendations for the coming year? Let me know in the comments. BETEO.

Book Review: Spectacles by Sue Perkins

I ‘m a big fan of Sue Perkins, one half of the comedy duo Mel and Sue, although I mainly know her from her work on her own as a guest in Qi and her shows with Giles Coren where they would eat in the style of different historical periods. 

Of course her most recent success has been reuniting with Mel to front The Great British Bake Off on which they are funny, charming and serve dual roles of comforting distraught baker’s when their cakes fail to rise and keeping up a stream of knowingly laboured puns and innuendos.It is the success of this show (which MWF introduced me to and which we are now both obsessed with) that has no doubt encouraged interest in a memoir.

But of her personal life I knew very little other than that she is a lesbian and in a relationship with fellow TV presenter Anna Richardson.

Perkins and Richardson

So going into this book I only had a brief idea of how the story would unfold but suspected that it would be told in a funny, affable manner.

It definitely was and Perkins’ style is a delight, easy to read, self deprecating manner with some nice repeated gags and some moving sections as well. Spending your time in this book is like listening to a very nice, funny woman chatting to you and I found myself liking Perkins more and more as I went on.

One of the aspects I enjoyed most was how much time Perkins spends talking about her family, who she recounts several funny stories and gently mocks their foibles in a loving way. She gives little snapshots of life in the Perkins household and they are told with real affection.

The book is divided into different sections around important places in her life, including Croydon where she grew up, Cambridge where she went to university and Cornwall where she moved to.

Perkins is funny throughout but there are moments which are achingly moving, especially the frank unsentimental way that Perkins discusses cancer and a failed relationship. What I admire most is that Perkins is in control of what she recollects and so there are references to certain events which are never explored in depth, and I think that’s fair enough, we choose what we share and what is too personal, or painful, to relive.

Of course, she knows what the reader has come for and her sarcastic, jokey description of GBBO behind the scenes is funny and well done, as is her handling of her sexuality and experiences coming out. It’s consistently funny and Perkins is a talented, witty writer who instills her writing with charm and warmth. If you’re not a fan before, you will be by the end.

Verdict: A funny and warm memoir in which Perkins tells her stories with humour and insight. In the company of such a likeable narrator this book is an easy, fun read and leaves you with great affection for Perkins. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.