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A Warwick-full of Happiness with Richard E Grant

Richard E Grant signs his book for writer David Court.

Richard E Grant at Warwick Arts Centre on 11 May

Review by David Court.

Richard E. Grant has been a formidable supporting presence on both the big and small screen since 1983. Making his film debut in the 1987 tragicomedy ‘Withnail and I’, his distinctive appearance and dulcet tones have appeared in an eclectic range of roles across such varied films and TV shows as ‘Gosford Park’, ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘Downton Abbey’, ‘The Rise of Skywalker’, and ‘Doctor Who’.

With an Oscar Nomination for 2018’s ‘Can you Ever Forgive Me?’, the Swaziland-born actor released his latest book – ‘A Pocketful of Happiness’ – in 2022. It’s a memoir that not only diarizes his fascinating (and humble) career in show business, but more importantly – and heartbreakingly – the relationship between Richard and his wife of 35 years Joan and her diagnosis of lung cancer and subsequent death in 2021.

He's been touring with his show ‘An evening with Richard E. Grant’ and the evening of May the 11th saw the 2023 BAFTA host pitch up at Warwick Arts Centre. He emerged to the sounds of King Curtis’ instrumental cover of ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ by Procol Harum (instantly recognisable by any “Withnail and I” fans) and regaled the mostly packed auditorium with a whistle-stop tour of his fascinating life and career.

Grant is a natural storyteller who makes this look easy – the first half of the show was a rollercoaster ride of emotions; the highs and lows of his troubled childhood and his life in show business – and the joys of his marriage and the despondency of his wife’s tragic diagnosis. His optimism is a joy to behold, as is the obvious love for his wife and family. Whereas show business memoirs often come across as an excuse to namedrop and gloat, this never feels like that – even when he bandies around the names of celebrities we can never even hope to meet, he makes it feel like part and parcel of the circles he can appreciate seem bizarre to any outsiders.

We learn of his great (stalker-esque) love for Barbra Streisand and their burgeoning friendship, and the joy – and subsequent bewilderment at the sudden adulation afforded to him – achieved by his Oscar nomination.

As a related aside, I was once lucky enough to be at a science fiction convention where George Takei (Sulu from ‘Star Trek’) was a guest speaker. A captivated audience sat listening to him for hours and it felt like minutes – this evening was very similar. Grant comes across as affable, likable – and you could happily listen to him talk for hours. The audience hung from his every word, and the love for him was palpable.

The second half was a question-and-answer session, so through its very freeform nature struggled to reach the lofty heights of the first half – but was never anything less than fully entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny. After the show he signed copies of his new book – a copy of which was included in the ticket price – and made sure that every single one of the audience members who queued for a signature and a photo got what they were after – no small feat for an audience quite so large.

Thoroughly enjoyable, with a delightful and solid accompanying message – always be sure to find a pocketful of happiness in every day. It’s a phrase coined by his wife (and famed dialect coach) Joan Washington, and a mantra we could all do with living by.

Discover more fantastic nights out at Warwick Arts Centre:


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