Katy Brand: I Could've Been An Astronaut | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Paul Fleckney © Karla Gowlett
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Katy Brand: I Could've Been An Astronaut

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Paul Fleckney

Katy Brand’s reinvention from character lunatic to autobiographical stand-up continues with I Could’ve Been An Astronaut, which trades on a similar kind of breezy nostalgia as her stage comeback last year, I Was A Teenage Christian. 

The Ronsealy title sets up a show that isn’t exactly full of surprises, but is nonetheless a thoroughly engaging hour. It turns out that while Brand was being the class clown in school, doing Thatcher impressions to make people laugh, she was harbouring a secret love for outer space. 

The theory she posits is that the label you are given when you’re young can inform the direction you take as an adult. ‘Be careful what you show an interest in,’ she warns. This is later turned on its head by her revelation that yes, she is as obsessed with owls as her friends and family think, and you cannot buy her enough owl-themed paraphernalia. 

Brand has a lot of fun with the subject of space, digging out old sci-fi books and mocking their vagueness and utter lack of science in what they predicted for the future. It’s low-hanging comedy fruit to do this, a sort of Gervaisian reliance on external stimulus for comedy, but it is a funny section. There’s a little stardust sprinkled on the show, too, with a cameo from Brian Cox and the story of her meeting one of her heroes, Chris Hadfield. 

Her formative experiences are relived, including an amusing tale about being underwhelmed by a fax machine while on family holiday in Cornwall, and a trip to London Planetarium which filled her childhood self with existential dread. 

Nostalgia is what drives the show, really, with Brand tapping into the bit of us that finds childhood nicknames amusing and likes to recall playground rivalries. Her nemeses were the boys in maths – the subject that she not only didn’t excel in, but wasn’t expected to excel in, because it wasn’t a girls’ subject.

It’s here that the show takes a cheeky pivot into gender role models – and not unreasonably, given how space is regarded as thing for little boys only. I Could’ve Been An Astronaut would have felt very one-note had Brand not found this extra layer. She even indulges in some low-level activism, which feels at amusingly at odds with her goodie-two-shoes persona. 

Brand is an accomplished storyteller who has put together a thoughtful, engaging show about ambition and fate. As a stand-up who can really generate material and turn nostalgia into belly laughs, she has work to do.

Review date: 15 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Paul Fleckney

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