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An Audience with Nigella Lawson, Symphony Hall, Birmingham - review

By Sarah Cowen-Strong | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

This was, without doubt, the Nigella we all know and love.

Nigella Lawson

All tumbling locks and black jumpsuit, revelling in collapsed cakes, the lure of thyme and middle-of-the-night leftovers, she certainly had us eating out of her hand when she brought her in conversation show to Birmingham Symphony Hall last night.

This favourite of our food writers is touring the UK marking 20 years since the publication of How to Eat, the huge cookery book which broke the mould as the first popular collection of recipes to contain no photographs and double as a doorstop!

Prompted by interviewer and journalist Felicity Cloake, Nigella told of her desire, not to instruct readers how to cook but to share her love of food, and the stories, secrets and revelations about her choices.

The fact that most people of a certain age have a copy of this groundbreaking book, which, splattered by egg white, red wine and beef stock falls open on family favourites bears testament to Nigella’s success.

She finished writing the book in a six-week push, completing an impressive 28,000 words in one day alone,sharing with her audience that being able to chronicle her passion for food - almost in diary form - was her drive.

Much of what Nigella told us - in THAT unmistakable voice - was well documented - the personal grief she had encountered; the view that being able to cook what YOU wanted to eat was the biggest independence and that when effectively describing dishes, the words just have to be right. A red onion to Nigella is never just that - it has to an onion of ‘glorious lit-up magenta’.

But it was later - and notably in a question and answer session thrown open to the audience - that Nigella revealed a side we didn’t know.

As fans poured out their love, gratitude and admiration - Nigella revealed that she suffers from anxiety, would have Barbra Streisand as a dream dinner guest if pushed, and midwifery once appealed to her as a career.

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She divulged that she didn’t choose the background music for her shows but relied on others, preferring more kitsch disco sounds herself and has a voice that sounds like ‘Wolves being torn apart’.

Nigella never watches other TV cooks, not wanting to inadvertently mirror them or to find, interestingly, that they were copying her in any way - even to the extent of using similar bowls.

She also told us her final death-row meal would be seven courses and it would include oysters, a blue cheese baguette, a chocolate mousse and a packet of Frazzles.

Hilarious, and the Nigella we love.

The evening was both comforting and enlightening and, most importantly of all, entertaining. Queues of fans snaking around the ground floor afterwards to meet Nigella and have their books signed would, I am sure, agree.

Sarah Cowen-Strong

By Sarah Cowen-Strong

Journalist with the Express & Star and Shropshire Star

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