A review of Little Me by Matt Lucas

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Little Me
My Life from A-Z
By Matt Lucas
A&U Canongate
October 2017, 336 pages, softcover, ISBN:9781786890863, $45aud

It was hard to come to Little Me with a critical eye. I already loved Matt Lucas from his many television roles, including most recently, the delightfully droll Nardole from Doctor Who. I wasn’t sure that the A-Z structure that Lucas uses would work for a memoir as it seems a little arbitrary, but it does, primarily because of the genial wackiness that allows for a kind of randomness to the recollections. Even when Lucas doesn’t have something specifically to match up with a letter, he makes it up – as with the song that Lucas puts in the “middle of the book” (check out middleofthebook.com to have a listen – Lucas’ voice is a delight).

Throughout the book the writing is smooth, laugh-out-loud funny and yet intimate. The  progression through the alphabet isn’t strained and doesn’t seem jarring, even if the book does move backward and forward in time, a fitting progression for someone who has spent time on the Tardis. As you’d expect, there’s a lot of humour in the book – Lucas is clearly a talented comic and his humour is distinctive. I’m not sure I’ll ever think about cheese in the same way:

‘Oh, lovely, some rancid mouldy yellow hardened fatty congealed liquid from the belly of a cow the smells of week-old socks and tastes of death’ = eats lots of it, as if nice.

Seriously, cheese is the most disgusting thing on earth, bar none.  I hate cheese: the taste, the smell, the texture. And don’t try non of that ‘Oh, but this is goat’s cheese’ nonsense on me, either. It’s cheese, okay?  It’s CHEESE. (61)

There are also a lot of powerful and poignant moments – from the extensive bullying that Lucas went through in during his school years, losing his hair and growing up bald, his father’s incarceration for fraud, struggles with food and weight, his painful coming out, losing a partner, his Judaism, and of course the discovery of the theatre and his acting career through the comedy circuit, Shooting Stars, Little Britain, Les Miserables, Alice in Wonderland, Nardole, Bridesmaids, Paddington and many others. Nor does Lucas skimp on the name dropping, backstage shenanigans and gossip about his co-stars, although he is consistently self-deprecating and effusive about his colleagues:

I loved working with the Doctor’s companion Bill, aka Pearl Mackie, who gave such an effortlessly natural, contemporary, warm performance, and who was playful and fun away from the camera too. She worked the longest hours. The prettier you are, the earlier your make-up call. With me, it took only twenty minutes. I’m already fat and bald! (253)

There are photos scattered through the book, mostly snapshots that wouldn’t be available online, rather than professional stills. Although the book is so easy to read it’s almost a guilty pleasure, it’s not facile. Lucas’ story, which was written entirely by him (no surprise there – he writes his own comedy after all), is surprisingly moving and universally powerful. In spite of the difficulty that Lucas went through, particularly in his childhood years, he is never self-pitying or mean about anyone he has worked with. There’s a graciousness and respect that underlies all of the stories in this book. Little Me creates the feeling that the reader is being taken into a very relaxed confidence, in which we get to hear the juicy backstage details as if they were being whispered to us over a cup of tea. Obviously this is a book that will be far more enjoyable for fans than for those who have never seen Matt Lucas’ work – there are a lot of references to his shows, and reading about the processes behind the shows is definitely part of the enjoyment of this gentle, self-deprecating, sometimes slapstick, but always moving memoir. As Lucas is still a young man, I’m sure there will be plenty more adventures in his life.  I’ll be looking forward to part two.