Dawn French’s Doctor Feared She Had Brain Tumour After Star Felt Like Head Was ‘Collapsing Inwards’ During Stage Show

“It was like being on a buffeting boat or something. It was awful, absolutely awful.”

Dawn French has revealed that her doctors feared she had a brain tumour after the comic suffered from “absolutely awful” vertigo on her last tour.

The actor and comedian had to use a walking stick on stage to keep upright during her 30 Million Minutes live shows after she felt like she was “on a buffeting boat”.

Appearing on Michelle Visage’s Rule Breakers podcast, Dawn said that she hadn’t been able to understand “what is up and what is down” while on stage and that her head felt like it was “collapsing inwards”.

“It is like my skull is a room and the whole of the top is collapsing inwards, and everything starts spinning,” she said.

“It’s like being very drunk and not understanding what is up and what is down.

“For a while they thought I might have a brain tumour… It was like being on a buffeting boat or something. It was awful, absolutely awful.”

Dawn French
Dawn French
David FisherDavid Fisher/Shutterstock

The Vicar of Dibley star was eventually told by a specialist that her condition was being triggered by the bright lights on stage.

Dawn explained: “I went and had all kinds of investigations and in the end a very clever neurologist told me, ’No, this is triggered by all the light which is side-lit on the stage. Your brain cannot take all of this light because you’ve got that coming into the side of your eyes but you’ve got blackness right in front of you where the audience are. You’ve got nothing to latch your eyes to.’”

The 64-year-old star was also performing on a raked stage, meaning it sloped towards the audience, which made things even worse.

“The stage is raked so my body is having all of these weird signals that you’re not upright.

“I took a stick on stage with me and I would make my two legs very wide on stage and I would put the stick in front of me like a tripod so that I had something to stand up to.”

Dawn admitted that she is now nervous about the prospect of her vertigo returning when she returns to the stage in September on her Dawn French Is A Huge Twat tour.

“Three weeks to the day that I finished that show, it just went. So I have a slight fear that that might come back,” Dawn said.

“So when you ask me if I have nerves, I have good nerves about the show, I have not so good nerves about that kicking off again.

“If it kicks off I know that I’m in hell, holding onto walls.”


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