At a state procession once, a little girl looked at the Lord Chamberlain in his finery and asked, "Daddy, what's that man for?" I often ask the same of stage shows, and this one deserves it more than most. Mrs Gaskell's biography is enlightening, certainly, but has as much drama in its form as a piece of garden furniture. Delia Paton giggles, sobs and finally expires with Victorian gentility, but theatre it ain't. Buy the book instead; it's unabridged, lasting and can prop up wonky table legs.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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