By Megan Donald
When I first heard the words ‘Stephen Fry’, ‘Live’ and ‘Glasgow’ in the same sentence, I exploded with delight. The prospect of seeing my literary idol in the flesh was almost too much too bear…Just as well I re-read the event description after being peeled off the ceiling –“Stephen Fry Live: via Satellite”. Whilst dearest Mr Fry would be grateful for the distance between my fanatical self in the Glasgow Film Theatre and him in London, I began to wonder just what I was spending £12.50 for. He was to be discussing his latest autobiography, The Fry Chronicles, to a live audience in London whilst being connected simultaneously to 60 other cinemas throughout Britain. I felt slightly cheated by this as what I was essentially watching was a video that would inevitably end up on YouTube. However, I put my cynicism aside and filed into the cinema to make up the most varied audience I have ever seen, validating Fry’s image as a “national treasure” – literally everyone loves him.
The initial air of uncertainty in the cinema was replaced suddenly by a hum of respect as Stephen Fry stepped on stage (Well, on screen for us). Delightfully flustered, he stood behind a lectern with his book wedged with masses of notes and arranged his glasses nervously. But as soon as he began with that ubiquitous voice, everyone was reminded just how painfully articulate a man Stephen Fry is. He began with an extract of the first chapter which describes his fixation with sugar. Any other person spending 15 minutes of an hour long talk listing all the different types of sweets in the world would be exasperating but with Fry, it was a lesson in verbal dexterity and the audience was fixated. Apart from the joy taken purely from his performance and gracious manner, his searing honesty was both gripping and heart-breaking. Fry’s explanation of his personal difficulties during the early 1990’s in particular was completely self-deprecating and avoids the ‘woe is me’ tone that can haunt an autobiography.
By the end of the evening the fact that it was via satellite and not properly live was irrelevant as the cinema was filled with an electric atmosphere. The talk proved that Stephen Fry’s autobiography, like the night’s event itself, is effortlessly entertaining and allows a lucid insight into the unexpected insecurities of a man with whom a whole nation are fascinated with.