This wonderful memoir by the ultra-talented actor/performer/artist Alan Cumming is a candid look at his childhood growing up on a large estate on the east coast of Scotland and the physically/mentally abusive father whose violence shaped (and nearly derailed) his life. His father was the head forester, and the laborious tasks that he set for his son were the least of his problems. The reader is startled to learn that “dealing with my father’s violence was the beginning of my studies of acting.” He learns to submerge his feelings, from his father, in order to spare himself from even worse beatings, and from himself as well. The book goes on to explore that period and the toll they take on him, as well as other family mysteries. He states “our family had always been one of secrets, of silence, of holding things in.”
The chapters alternate between “Then” and “Now,” the latter period starting in the Spring of 2010, when the author has already achieved a high level of fame and celebrity in film and stage displaying an extraordinary range, everything from playing a transvestite on film to introducing Masterpiece Mysteries on PBS television, the Emcee in Cabaret (the latter such a success that he is now playing the same iconic role in a revival on Broadway), as well as, in an entirely new production, “a man who is admitted to a psychiatric unit and then proceeds to act out the entire play of Macbeth,” an unforgettable performance. Mr. Cumming also has done concerts in 2 of the most beautiful and sophisticated cabaret venues in all of Manhattan: the now-departed Feinstein’s at the Regency, and the Allen Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center. And of course who can forget his wonderful portrayal of Eli Gold, political operative, on the terrific series The Good Wife?!
But all of this takes a back seat to the central mysteries of the book: His relationship (such as it was) with his father, in the exploration of which he is joined by his older brother, and seeking the truth about his maternal grandfather, a celebrated WWII hero who disappeared in the Far East, when he agrees to participate in a popular celebrity genealogy show. The surprises come early and often, wringing much emotion and some tears from the author and, I suspect, many of his readers.
Mr. Cumming has described himself as “Scottish elf trapped inside middle-aged man’s body,” and the reader cannot but be completely charmed by this engaging man, and completely caught up in this engrossing albeit often-disturbing tale, which is highly recommended....Continua