There's something about Dawn French that just makes you smile. She sparkles.

Part of it is her smile. That wide cheeky grin that let's you know mischief is ahead.

Part of it is her voice, so familiar and soothing. Even when talking about not-so-soothing things.

But mostly, it is her sense of self. Dawn French is so confident and comfortable being herself, it seems to bring a sense of calm and acceptance to all those around her.


Thirty Million Minutes is the story of how she came to be that person. A two-hour journey through her past, from her earliest memory meeting the Queen Mother, through to her present life.

No subject is off-limits. Her body, infertility and divorce are all examined at length. So too is her father's tragic death.

It is deeply emotional stuff. But handled in such a way, in that warm sparkly way, that listening to it is not the harrowing experience you might expect.

Balanced against tales of flirting with boys, an evil grandma and the most intimate mother-daughter experience on record, it makes for a captivating evening. What the Irish would call, good craic.

The most charming moments come from French's collection of old photos and home videos. Pictures of her dressed as "a pink Dwarfish jockey" for a cousin's wedding. A video of her and ex-husband Lenny Henry cuddling their newborn baby daughter.

And of course, there is comedy. Not the slapstick, physical humour of French and Saunders but a more subtle, cheeky variety that weaves its way into just about every subject.

It is a brave and honest portrait of how French came to be - and how she kept her sparkle.

It's fair to say the show is not for everyone. As the opening announcement warns, cynics and wankers should best avoid. For everyone else, there is a heart-warming evening ahead.