An Evening with Graham Norton – Review – York Theatre Royal
By Roger Crow, October 2022
Remarkably Graham Norton had never been to York until recently. And thanks to the rail strike, it’s a wonder he made it at all. The latest leg of his book tour was due to start at 7:30pm at York Theatre Royal, but MC Konnie Huq is still trying to make her way to the venue. Thankfully Graham is there, so around 7:45pm, he bounds on stage, like he does on that chat show he’s been hosting for years, and does his bit, not to camera obviously, but to us, the gathered masses.
Normally with these things, the host, aka Konnie, would ask all the questions; Graham would answer; plug his book; we have a break, and then he takes questions from the audience in the second half. Obviously given the circumstances, he decides to flip the arrangement, and it turns out to be a win-win for everyone.
Given his improv skills, Norton of course is a master, and through that first half we get to know more about his life and career than any chat show. Because of course he’s interviewed hundreds of folks over the years, but many of us know very little about him, the man I lovingly refer to as ‘your man off the telly’.
And what a pleasure it is as he addresses just about everything, from the feelings of the last Eurovision, to his writing process; favourite and least favourite guests, and everything inbetween. I even get to ask him what it was like to work on Pixar classic Soul, one of the most moving films of recent years. And instead of turning it into a big punchline, he’s genuinely humble about the whole experience. So I’ll wear that like a badge. ‘I interviewed Graham Norton’, even if it was just the one question.
He saves the best for the last bit of the first half. After someone asks him what would be his Red Chair experience (no flipping on this stage thanks), he delivers a knockout story which a) I won’t spoil just in case he tells it again later in the tour and b) It’s a little too outrageous.
Norton brings the house down, and we all enjoy a 20-minute break while Konnie arrives and gets her questions together.
The second half is one of those weird affairs where the MC feels less intimate with the audience than the guest, who’s just done such a terrific job of winning us over (like it was that difficult), we’d probably crawl over hot coals to win his approval.
But things soon settle, and Konnie asks questions, some of which have already been discussed, and every time Graham gives us an insight into his writing, it’s an absolute joy. But it’s also an inspiration for any of us over 50 who have a novel in us to get it down on paper, or laptop, or whatever. Okay, we may not have a chat show broadcast around the world, but the thing is still the same. You, a story, and an idea.
Back in 1997, I did write a novel, and if it taught me anything, it was how not to write a novel. And it’s nights like this that are worth their weight in gold. Concentrated inspiration to get back to the writing, especially when the storyteller is as gifted as Graham.
Anyway, enough gushing from me. Considering I’d completely forgotten the show was even taking place until a few hours before, it turned out to be one of the most memorable nights of the year. Inspiring, hugely entertaining, often poignant, especially when Norton discussed the death of his dad, and proof that he’s just another guy who does a job that just happens to be telling great stories and chatting to interesting people.
I could have quite happily sat through the whole thing again without an MC, because as good as Konnie is, when she’s sat next to a genuine master, even the best hosts are going to struggle by comparison.
Cheers Graham. You did a grand job. Now what was the name of your book again? Oh yes, Forever Home.