Deborah Frances-White: How to Get Almost Anyone to Want to Sleep with You

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

Review from 2008 tour

Some stand-ups set out to make comedy as great art, revealing something about the human condition or the state of the world. Deborah Frances-White, by contrast, sets out to make comedy as a daytime TV programme, shallowly chatting about the broadest, most populist topics. She’s even got a sofa on set.

You can’t really go wrong with sex and relationships, as the editors of countless magazines will tell you, which makes How To Get Almost Anyone To Sleep With You a very canny bit of marketing. The title’s got obvious appeal, and no one can be in any doubt of what to expect.

At times, especially in the first half when she set ups her ideas, this does feels like a singletons’ seminar, with Frances-White delivering obviously pre-prepared lecture notes, sometimes slipping into schoolma’amly strictness to reinforce that impression. It comes as no surprise to find out that, outside of the comedy circuit, she’s part of an improv group offering corporate training in ‘soft skills’ such as charisma and creativity.

But when she talks to the audience, that stiffness vanishes, as she pries into people’s relationship status and motives for coming to such a show. She employs fairly standard compering fare, but she’s quick, fluid and non-threatening, which sets the mood well.

She employs the usual techniques of the self-help industry, too, taking a mix of psychology and the bleeding obvious and dressing it up in neat extended analogies and pithy slogans, repeated often to ram home the point. ‘Don’t be a bad sitcom, be a Scorsese movie… in a hat’, she repeatedly tells the women in the audience.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a training session without some roleplay, and that’s what happens after the interval. Volunteers are pulled from the auditorium, with the men demonstrating their chat-up techniques on the women, with Frances-White interjecting as to what they, inevitably, do wrong.

After the rather dry first half, this is where she comes into her own, interacting skilfully with the guinea pigs and the rest of the audience, who are all-too eager to contribute suggestions of their own. The men might also learn something here, as she shares a couple of acting methods to come across more confident and sexy.

Essentially, Frances-White is a presenter with excellent people skills, rather than an instinctive comedian. She handles the crowd expertly, and brings out the best in those she drags into the spotlight, just like any game-show host should. If this show is the daytime TV of comedy, at least she’s the right person to be fronting it.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Brentford, April 27, 2008

Three-star review from Edinburgh 2007

Deborah Frances-White is sexy - and she wants you to be too. Whether the advice we were given in How To Get Almost Anyone You Want To Sleep With You would actually help with this task is highly unlikely, but flirting with Deborah is certainly a pleasant way to spend an hour.

As soon as Frances-White entered the stage dressed in mock-frock coat and bowler hat, like a modern day vaudeville MC, we the audience were pretty sure we weren’t going to get a serious lecture on neuro-linguistic programming, Rohypnol or other such ways of getting anyone you want to sleep with you.

With her tongue firmly in her cheek, she gave a series of personal insights into how she had taken herself from unconfident wallflower to alluring sex-kitten and showed us how she had deciphered the traits that could turn any man from James Blunt into James Bond.

Using her assistant, a (poorly positioned) screen and a PowerPoint presentation, Frances-White gave out her sexy pearls of wisdom in the form of do’s and don’ts and handy hints. Encouraging lovelorn individuals to take to the stage and hone their new-found seduction skills in front of 60 strangers was an interesting way of proving her points, even if it did make me cringe slightly.

Afternoon audiences are notorious for being timid and un-cooperative, but within minutes of banter she had charmed them into revealing some pretty juicy bits about their private lives and relationships. Although confident, Frances-White was not about to take herself at all seriously, helping foster a sense of trust and intimacy where we felt we could share and laugh at ourselves too.

The success of the show was almost entirely dependant on this element of audience participation; Frances-White fed off our responses, eliciting her biggest laughs by simply taking our words and repeating them back to us, highlighting the humour in our approaches to dating and mating.

This show may not have taught us lessons that will improve our pulling potential with the objects of our desire, but it certainly was a masterclass on how to build a warm and meaningful relationship with an Edinburgh Fringe audience.

Reviewed by: Becky Singh

Review date: 1 Jan 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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