Telling look at Britain

Notes From a Small Island @ Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

Notes From a Small Island @ Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

By MICHAEL DRAKE

Given the chance, Bill Bryson could easily upset people – Americans at one stage thought him rather less than patriotic. In his best seller Notes from a Small Island, he looked Britain straight in the eye and also gave it some sideways glances.

And yet Bryson says, often humorously, what we may think privately about ourselves but would not admit publicly.

It is these observations, adapted and directed by Paul Hodson for Brighton Theatre Events, which were cleverly presented last evening by comedian and actor Steve Steen, condensing the travels of the Anglophile American and his meetings with some 70 characters on the way.

With background audio tapes as his only props, Steen's silences and telling looks – over dinner at a Bournemouth hotel for example – were often as effective as the words.

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He gave some lovely character assassinations, none really malicious but all born out of perceptive observations. Venues changed instantaneously with inflections that made the storytelling seamless.

Maybe it's unfair of me, but the stop in Glasgow was worth the whole trip and it was probably just as well Bryson did not visit Norfolk.

Michael Drake

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