An Evening with David Sedaris, Leicester Square Theatre, London

'New Yorker' stories combine cleverness and consolation

There were no dancing girls during An Evening with David Sedaris. Nor was there any strobe lighting. Musical accompaniment did not feature, and back-projected images were entirely absent.

All we got was a friendly-looking man in early middle age, in a shirt and tie but no jacket, reading and chatting to us from a lectern. Simplicity is all with Sedaris, the American humourist whose autobiographical pieces for The New Yorker have won him such a devoted following that, with minimal publicity, he quickly sold out one night at the 400-seat Leicester Square Theatre, and then sold out two more.

Sedaris's appearance followed on from the sell-out talks given last year by another New Yorker star, Malcolm Gladwell, and taken together these two events demonstrated a number of things: the elevated status enjoyed by The New Yorker in an age of declining journalistic standards; the hunger to see cleverness in the flesh; the almost mystical power of the writer-as-seer; and the abiding pleasure of simply being read to.

In Sedaris's case, more is going on still. His sentences are so beautiful, and he balances comedy with pathos so skilfully, that what he offers enters the realm of spiritual consolation. As a gay man he has an outsider's take on the world, but it remains an essentially benign one, and the central concerns of his writing – family and childhood – are ones that everyone can relate to. Think Alan Bennett with an American accent and a younger appeal.

The structure of the evening wasn't quite right. For an hour Sedaris read from manuscripts, which was not far off an audiobook experience only with the writer in the room. This section included a story that looked back to when Sedaris was aged 12 and took some baby sea turtles from a North Carolina beach and unwittingly consigned them to a miserable death by keeping them in a tank in his bedroom. But really the story was about his discovery that he was gay, and his relationship with his father, and it carried such emotional force that one needed a longer break to absorb it before having to concentrate on the next offering. This was the first time Sedaris had performed in this way, and he seemed a little nervous, his voice very light. He read too quickly and there were a few stumbles.

An interval would have been a good idea, but he continued straight into some diary readings and then took questions from the floor. It was all over in an hour and a half. Sedaris's diaries provided the funniest moments of the evening. He and his partner have quit their home in Normandy and moved to London and his tale of being ripped off £2 after a bus broke down and then ripped off another £2 by having to pay an unexpected entry fee to an antiques fair was sublime. The entry concluded with a line that charmed as only Sedaris can: "And then I found a darling cushion cover and England was forgiven."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea