Renaissance man reminiscences

Many a True Word  – Bill Bryson (Lateral Events)

QPAC, Concert Hall

March 16

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“Many a True Word” is the perfect vehicle for sharing Bill Bryson’s trivia and travel tales. Bryson has a clear affinity with this country, having visited countless times; however, this is first national tour, which sees him on stage being ‘interviewed’ by veteran Australian journalist Ray Martin.

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Martin does a decent job; he fields and feeds Bryson questions, throws to the audio-visual components of the show and most importantly, lets Bryson share the anecdotes that emerge from each of these. Though unassuming in nature, Bryson is a natural comedian, making these reminiscences the show’s highlight. Not only does he share stories from his memoir “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid”, but he illuminates these with reflections on his parents and life growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, USA, (complete with adorably amusing, genuine home movie footage) through to his tenure as Durham University Chancellor in the UK. All of these are also illustrated with images from a talented on-stage sand artist, which, although an odd inclusion, also often adds to the show’s comedy.

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Softly spoken and modest, Bryson is witty and entertaining as he shares extracts from some of his popular books, including amusing tales of outback pub visits and animal escapades with snakes, dogs and bears. The audience QandA section is also of particular interest, when, at his Brisbane show, his answers revealed the dreadful dangers of a visit to northern Norway and detail about his upcoming projects, “Notes from a Small Island Revisited” and “A Short History of the Human Body”.

Indeed, as his fans would attest, Bryson is very much a Renaissance man, whose expertise covers many topics and diverse subjects from the fascination of science to his love of linguistics. And it was pleasing to see Act Two move to discussion of the enormity of his “A Short History of Nearly Everything” and his latest word, “One  Summer: America 1927”, which fascinatingly chronicles a forgotten summer when America came of age and the world was forever changed.

“Many a True Word” is a wonderful way to spend an evening, savoring the splendor of two hours of Bryson yarns. If you haven’t read his books, it will make you want to. And if you are already a fan, you’ll want to revisit them, this time with his genial voice and affable manner resonating as you do.

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