Review: Emma Thompson and Phyllida Law, Cheltenham Literature Festival
WITHIN moments of their appearance, Phyllida Law and Emma Thompson are making mischief.
“Ghastly” Oscar-winning actress Emma screeches as she spots the big screen which has zoomed in on her face. Quick as a flash, her mother is contorting her own face for comedy value.
They haven’t been fully introduced and yet the audience are roaring with laughter.
It sets the tone for an occasionally uplifting, often moving and always entertaining hour as the mother and daughter reflect on family life.
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The anecdotes and memories come thick and past as we delve into Phyllida’s new book, the curiously named, How Many Camels Are There in Holland?
Although we’re in the realms of a talk on dementia – Phyllida’s mother and mother-in-law were both ravaged by the cruel loss of memory – we never end up in a wallowing pit of Hollywood schmaltz like many of Emma’s films.
Remarkably, given the subject, it’s all about the humour.
Stories are recalled of their ‘granny’ calling for breakfast at three in the morning only for her to be found trying to make toast using the radio.
There was also an instance where she put bacon into her knicker drawer and her knickers into the fridge and they have their suspicions that she may have killed the doctor’s cat.
After all she got rid off her own pet when she felt it wasn’t doing ‘what cats should do’.
The tales came like waves and the raucous laughter ensured they were lapped up.
Another anecdote places the pair in their kitchen with Phyllida chopping up ceps before declaring innocently ‘I haven’t had proper ceps for years’.
A voice pipes up – their granny – and says in all seriousness, ‘would you like to talk about it?’.
It’s an event which was hardly revelationary – albeit Emma did reveal she is set to sing in five performances of Sweeney Todd in New York alongside opera singer Bryn Terfel – but in truth it didn’t need to be.
Sometimes, as they both reflected, less is more.