Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars If Clare Balding wasn't already considered a national treasure, her ubiquity anchoring this year's London Paralympics has confirmed it. This may be why her autobiography, the tellingly named My Animals and Other Family, has been number one best-seller for the last two weeks. For a woman whose entire life has been spent in a horse-racing world where competition and the thrill of the chase means everything, one suspects these sorts of things matter to Balding. By the time she ambles onstage for this sold out talk sporting sloppy sweat shirt and jeans, Balding has already done a signing in St Boswell's, with one in Milngavie to go as part of a suitably marathon tour. Over an hour, Balding relates in impeccably jolly hockey-sticks tones a life which sounds not unlike one great big Girl's Own adventure, from posing for pictures astride legendary race-horse Mill Reef aged eighteen months, to being suspended from the same boarding school attended by Miranda Hart. Whenever she clocks an accidental tomboyish pointer to her future as a sapphic icon, “Who knew?”, she declares with self-deprecatory knowingness. There's also a healthy attitude to the monarchy, as both an incident in which a sausage becomes a missile inadvertently aimed at the Queen, and a later on-track skirmish with Princess Anne on the race-track testify to. But there's a more serious side to Balding. She expresses concerns over the height of fences for the Grand National, and reveals she'll be working on a BBC science programme, “something about the brain. I'm fascinated by what makes us happy, what it is that makes us feel alive.” Who knew indeed?
The Herald, September 28th 2012 ends