Deborah Frances-White certainly has a market cornered in this year’s festival. There is a severe lack of shows covering the ins and outs of being a Jehovah’s Witness. It’s certainly not a show for those who are practicing the faith, but your appreciation of this stand-up’s set will be magnified if you have some knowledge of the ‘cult’. That’s not to say that there’s not a lot of fun to be had here, just that when the comedian had asked the audience if they knew, were, or are related to a Jehovah’s Witness, I seemed to be the only person who didn’t raise my hand.
Frances-White is a likeable and charmingly offbeat comedian. It certainly helped to get the audience on her side by showing some hideously embarrassing photographs of herself during her early 20’s, and anyone who is willing to poke fun at themselves always gets a good connection with the audience. Frances-White delves into her entertaining history as a Jehovah’s Witness and has some wickedly pointed satire aimed at the movement. In particular, shockingly awful paintings that are found within the movements handbooks provide some especially amusing material.
Where the show falls slightly flat is in the comedian’s ability to riff off the audience, she’s not bad, it’s just here that her lack of experience is duly noted. The subject matter also outstays its welcome; Francis-White is funny enough to expand her material. At various points she hints at taking the blinkers off and delving into other areas, but it is always somehow re-connected to the central theme. Her whole history of being a Jehovah’s Witness is an original and enjoyable set-up for her stand-up routine, but it now needs to be taken further, as there isn’t really enough material here to maintain an hour long set.