Director: Pip Broughton
Reviewer: Leon Paul
The Public Reviews Rating:
Joy is listening to Sandi Toksvig for an hour and a half. In fact her show opens with Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, which Toksvig tells us was commissioned for just fifty pounds “perhaps the best fifty pound every spent in musical history”.
Toksvig is overflowing with joie de vivre, it is omnipresent in the work that she does, the way she talks to a packed auditorium of people & the literature she produces. She tells us that she wakes every day wondering what the day will bring & is excited by the prospects ahead; as such, her joy & enthusiasm for life, love & seeing the world in a different way is infectious. Rarely has an evening been spent in the theatre that had a more inspirational feeling in the house. Toksvig enthuses not only about those things in her life, career & family history that are important to her, but also her passion for literature of all & any description including a passage from a golfing handbook which highlights the wonderful eccentricity & yet stoic pragmatism of our nation.
The first half of the show is a casual meandering through Sandi’s life & career bejeweled with sparkling anecdotes as you would expect from a seasoned raconteur. Growing up in New York, expulsions from educational institutions, deciding to speak like Celia Johnson & her genetic predisposition to working for the BBC are all touched upon as well as her enthusiasm for travel & second-hand books. The second half concentrates on Sandi’s unswerving passion for history. It does, however begin with a quiz…we are all asked to stand & place out hands of our heads if we believe the statement is true & on our bottoms if false. For an educated bunch of theatergoers, we really didn’t know our history and this reviewer will freely admit to having been out of the first go!
Toksvig takes us through the background to her recent novel ‘Valentine Grey’, describing the heroism of women across the ages, their ingenuity, pragmatism, joies de vivre and bravery. All backed up by revisiting classic childrens’ literature like the Janet & John stories or What Katy Did Next, the perfect examples of girls being bereft of adventure stories when they are young. Role models are clearly very important to Sandi, her parents, family, friends, partner, children as well as those women from history that did great things. The joy is ever present in this show and in this sense of empowering women to achieve. This is typified by the question and answer session towards the end of the show when an eleven-year-old girl asked Sandi why she chose to be a writer and why she loved it so much. Sandi’s response was simple ‘because I love it and if you have stories in your head to tell, especially adventure stories for girls, then please write them down and when you have and they’ve been published, will you come back and tell me?’
There are seminal moments in a young person’s life and one has to very much hope that that girl was as inspired by that phrase as this reviewer was. Sandi Toksvig has always been someone who inspires great admiration; she is fiercely intelligent, erudite, educated, witty & passionate; qualities that are all too often disregarded in today’s lowest-common-denominator society. It truly is a joy to be in the room with Sandi Toksvig, and all who attended here can happily now say that she has read to them at bedtime.