Durham Town Hall
Review by Victoria Simpson
For someone who’s novel has recently been turned into a major motion picture, you could imagine that Lissa Evans would have some air of superiority about her but in fact, the woman sat before us was the visual definition of humble.
The event was chaired by Claire Malcolm, Chief Executive of New Writing North, who provided a background of Lissa Evans. This included her work on popular TV panel shows such as Room 101 and the comedy great Father Ted. Rather surprisingly, we were also informed that Evans originally trained as a Junior Doctor and could be seen frequenting the wards of Dryburn hospital. After deciding that medicine wasn’t for her she threw herself into the world of literature and decided to begin writing novels in her early 30’s.
Evans then described her own writing process as “slashing a jungle and then going back to clean it for the best garden competition”. This was the first of many jokes that she told during the hour. From outside the room, you could have easily mistaken it for a standup show rather than a literary event. It’s very clear from her background in comedy shows where her comedic timing comes from. Throughout the event, she presented many amusing anecdotes including her time as an extra in Their Finest and an incident from Father Ted. The production crew had scouted a double of a sheep, to mimic a one that was filmed earlier, except the double was half the size of the original one, had a white face (original was black) and had been in a fight. In the end, Evans had to send the sheep to make up to be fixed!
Their Finest came about as Lissa Evans combined the two things she knows together: war and television. She did point out the discrepancies between the book and the film as the audience was shown extracts from both. For instance, in the novel, there is no such line as “we can’t pay you as much as chaps” and Tom Buckley, an older character in the book, is played in the film by the 31-year-old Sam Claflin.
The topic of discussion then moved onto her other book Crooked Heart where she read another humorous extract in which the audience roared with laughter regarding a certain joke about the French.
If there’s one thing you could take away from this event, it’s that Lissa Evans is a comedic genius. To conclude, in her own words ‘if you can write a funny line, it’s the finest thing you can do”.
Cuckoo Review is an arts journalism programme for young writers aged 15-23. Through the Cuckoo Reviewers in Residence programme at Durham Book Festival, young people have reviewed festival events and books, and have interviewed featured authors. For more information about Cuckoo Review visit review.cuckoowriters.com.