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Review: Gervase Phinn at Ipswich Corn Exchange

By Angus Smith
Resident of Kesgrave

Gervase Phinn
Gervase Phinn spent 14 years as a teacher before becoming a schools inspector

I have to confess I had not even heard of Mr Phinn until a few months ago when my mother and cousin mentioned he was doing a theatre tour including a date in Ipswich.

They had read several of his books and said they were hilarious and when I asked if was he a comedian they said he was, but much more.

Despite it being cold and snowing outside, a packed Corn Exchange proved that he had something of a cult audience and he is indeed a man of many talents.

Gervase Phinn is, as I discovered, a multi-faceted talent - raconteur, teacher, freelance lecturer, author, poet, OFSTED school inspector, educational consultant and visiting professor of education.

Rotherham-based Phinn entertained us with a two hour set comprising an array of humorous tales, anecdotes, readings and stand-up.

The tour, entitled a Yuletide Evening with Gervase Phinn, was primarily promoting his new book Out Of The Woods: But Not Over The Hill which is, in essence, a best-of compilation of his previous works.

Never having to resort to profanities to punctuate his punchlines and prose
Angus Smith

Getting old

It primarily focuses on the humour and observations of getting old, but also included some very funny recollections of his career.

The first part of the evening concentrated on the Christmas theme and Phinn brought up some hysterical yarns from his time as a schools inspector.

There were large numbers of teachers in the audience (myself included) and he delivered some terrific tales from his A Wayne In A Manger book along with other Christmas-related material.

The second half of the show dealt more with material from his Dales series of books and others such as Don't Tell Teacher.

Phinn's delivery is like a cross between Alan Bennett and James Herriot for the 2010s and his self-deprecating humour shone.

He thanked his parents for giving him his love of reading and writing and his sense of humour:

"I mean, my father had a great sense of humour. Who else would call their son Gervase in a Yorkshire coal-mining community."

Dangerous dogs

His work as a schools inspector was often the source of much hilarity.

"What's the difference between a rottweiler and a school inspector?

"Well, a rottweiler doesn't smile when he savages you!" or "What's the difference between a school inspector and a terrorist? At least you can negotiate with a terrorist."

Other gems were when phoning the mother superior of a convent school Phinn was shocked with the reply of "This is the head of St John the Baptist speaking!"

His own family provided the gags when he recalled his little grand-daughter telling his wife: "Grandma, your face needs an iron."

Never politically correct, but at the same time never having to resort to profanities to punctuate his punchlines and prose, Phinn managed to entertain and delight throughout while at the same time making poignant observations on life and learning.

All in all a hugely entertaining evening.

Gervase Phinn was at the Ipswich Corn Exchange on Thursday, 25 November, 2010.

If you're interested in writing a review in return for free tickets to an event, write to us suffolk@bbc.co.uk here.

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