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Deborah Frances-White: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Alex Mason

In one of the more interesting premises for a Fringe show, Deborah Frances-White focuses on her time as a Jehovah's Witness, her eventual escape, and what it means to be in a cult.

While mainly stand-up, there's also a dramatic element via regular flashback monologues recounting an encounter she had while going door-to-door. It's a nice device that breaks up the set and keeps you guessing what happens next.

Balancing the jokes and the more serious narrative device is tricky, and Frances-White opts for using a young front-row audience member to lighten the mood, at one point asking him if he'd ever seen The Graduate. While initially funny, with a  modest audience, this interaction verged a little too far into awkward.

Here exposé covers the restrictions placed on members, why she joined, and what made her eventually leave. There's also a fascinating look at the ideology structure, with explanations on the door-knocking and the infamous Watchtower magazine.

It's all fascinating, but it's not very funny. Frances-White is a dab hand at fitting jokes in where required, but the material rebuffs all attempts at a funny tangent. It’s primarily a talk with enough gags to make it palatable in stand-up context, rather than complementing inherently funny material.

There's a lot of good jokes here, and a few heartwarming stories along the way, but the format is constricting. There's a potential goldmine of material, but we only glimpse a small amount of it, in too much depth. It's interesting, but the focus is more on explanation than comedy.

That said, the show is charming and enlightening with enough laughs to keep things moving through a highly entertaining hour.

Review date: 23 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Alex Mason
Reviewed at: Assembly Roxy

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