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An Evening with Armistead Maupin review: warm, funny and inclusive

PUBLISHED: 11:44 01 October 2019 | UPDATED: 11:44 01 October 2019

Armistead Maupin took to stage at Norwich Theatre Royal on Monday, September 30. Picture: Supplied by Norwich Theatre Royal

Armistead Maupin took to stage at Norwich Theatre Royal on Monday, September 30. Picture: Supplied by Norwich Theatre Royal

Supplied by Norwich Theatre Royal

Despite the unusually pared-back stage setting at Norwich Theatre Royal last night, there was a warm atmosphere as American writer Armistead Maupin, best known for his nine-part series Tales of the City, sat down for a chat with novelist Hannah Beckerman.

The first half began with a brief recap of Maupin's canon, with the author admitting that he knew, early on, that his daily serial - first published in Marin County's The Pacific Sun and, later, the San Francisco Chronicle - would make him famous. Was this a bold claim? No, it was just honest - a sentiment which underpinned the entire evening.

While a few of Beckerman's early questions were a little stilted, the dynamic soon settled and there was a real sense of intimacy between the two authors. Maupin meandered between engaging anecdotes about his life - including 'coming out' in his late 20s and his time in the US Navy - literary, cinematic and cultural references and valuable insights into how he developed his characters. As a 'writer-in-progress', this was really interesting to me, and I left with a real sense that he and his characters were inseparable, growing with eachother, as they had navigated the LGBT community.

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But the highlight of the whole evening, for me, came in the second half, as Maupin read an extract from his memoir, Logical Family. There is always something very precious about an author giving their own voice to their words, and this hilarious and highly observant reading about better understanding his sexuality in his late 20s certainly didn't disappoint.

An event of this kind can sometimes feel detached in a busy auditorium and although the downstairs stalls were certainly packed, with people of all ages, the overriding feelings were ones of warmth and respect. The audience felt keen to adopt Maupin as their own, I felt, giving a hearty round of applause when he said that he had recently moved to London, and that in his 20s, he had even spent some time in the Norfolk village of Cley-next-the-Sea.

Questions from the audience tackled everything from the writing process and San Franciscan culture to what it was like living through the AIDs epidemic, and there was raucous laughter from both sides when, in the spirit of openness and honesty, one member of the audience offered advice for curing a certain Cromer 'crab'.

Anywhere else, this might have been in poor taste, but not in Maupin's world which is built on thoughtfulness, respect and a razor-sharp wit.

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