A Yuletide Evening: Gervase Phinn – Review – East Riding Theatre, Beverley
A Yuletide Evening: Gervase Phinn – Review
Beverley East Riding Theatre, December 2017
by Karl Hornsey
Having read several of Gervase Phinn’s books down the years, and seen him a few years ago at Hull City Hall, I knew what to expect of his latest trip to these parts, as his one-man show ‘A Yuletide Evening’ came to the charming East Riding Theatre in Beverley.
Where James Herriot opened the door for writers of heartwarming and poignant tales of hardworking Yorkshire folk in his series of books, later filmed so successfully as All Creatures Great and Small, Phinn has taken that lead into the 21st century.
His books detailing his life first as a teacher, and then as inspector of schools have sold in huge numbers, leading in themselves to a number of similar examples of the working lives of policemen, nurses, headmasters etc.
Despite the seemingly never-ending supply of such books, Phinn still stands head and shoulders above them all as a natural storyteller, as at ease trying to make his audience laugh as making serious points on the subject he cares so deeply about – children.
Phinn is a natural raconteur, building up enough stories and anecdotes over his 70 years to fill a full week of shows, never mind just one night, and while he also throws in some amusing asides about the absurdities of the English language, it’s when he’s talking his own experiences, either as a child himself or in his work in schools, that he comes into his own.
What I particularly like is that he is not afraid to delve into serious subjects, sharing his thoughts on where schools and modern society as a whole are going wrong or proving baffling, or relating the seismic importance of a child’s upbringing and education, but crucially doing so without preaching to his audience.
This particular show was based on the theme of Christmas, including some of the catastrophic and hilarious Nativity plays he has had the fortune – or misfortune – to witness, and he speaks with genuine emotion about the importance of the festive period to children, and how those early memories can help to shape their lives.
While straying from his theme to share stories of his time in Northern Ireland and on cruise ships plying his new trade as a public speaker, it is those Christmas tales that made this a special occasion at the ERT, and I suspect most of the audience went away from the evening a little wiser and a little more full of festive cheer.