Katy Brand: I Was A Teenage Christian | Review by Steve Bennett

Katy Brand: I Was A Teenage Christian

Review by Steve Bennett

The title is straightforward, and so is the story.

It’s been 11 years since Katy Brand was last at the Fringe, that time with an over-the-top character show, which led to her ITV2 series. Now she’s returned as an autobiographical storytelling stand-up, with the extended yarn about how, at 13, she discovered God while on a camping trip to Cornwall and became an enthusiastic member of a church. ‘You have to believe to see,’ she was told… although that was actually about the magic eye pictures that were all the rage at the time.

She did have a genuine moment of feeling touched by the Holy Spirit, as believers would have it, that literally knocked her off her feet. Whatever the cause, she signed up for a trendy evangelical youth church – its crucifix made of acoustic guitars – and leapt into its work with gusto. Like a lot of teenagers she needed something to belong to, and the church made her feel special, especially as she rose to its inner conclave, being in the band.

There’s no grand story arc or twists and turns to what happens next. She digs out an old youth Bible, hilarious in the ‘real-life’ examples it appended to the texts to make them relevant, and tells of abstinence lessons, of how she would try to convert her friends, and of how she became consumed by the cliquey hierarchical struggles.

Eventually, of course, the spell wore off and the scales fell from her eyes – mainly when the church started campaigning to ban Harry Potter – and she realised that the hip reverend she was once in thrall to, and his followers, were all just dim. She just grew up a bit; there’s no grand denouement here.

That’s typical of a story, that is low on twists and turns, vivid characters, or even a thorough examination of her feelings at the time. She posits that she needed a community because 13 is an age when you become aware of your own mortality and need to feel part of something bigger , but it seems like a retrospective intellectual response. This idea feeds into a story that bookends the show about how she became Sky News’s go-to girl whenever they wanted an instant tribute following the death of a famous entertainer, which is low on laughs, but she spins it out well. Her teenage story about needing to belong and feel important, however nutty the doctrine, also has parallels with IS brides, but that goes unsaid.

Perhaps surprisingly for someone known for brash character work, Brand seems unconfident on stage, especially to begin with; any mildly funny statement greeted with a nervous half-laugh as she exhales. Although that delivery certainly makes her embarrassment feel all the more acute as cringe-inducing memories such as preaching to shoppers in Watford’s Harlequin Centre are brought up.

There’s certainly a lot of warmth to that unaffected style, and Brand always endears, even if the tale needs to be knocked into a more gripping shape if she’s to compete with the very best storytellers at this festival.

Review date: 14 Aug 2016
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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