Writer: Katy Brand
Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
According to Karl Marx religion is the opium of the people – keeping them sedate and compliant. For Katy Brand, however, the reverse is true; when she became a Fundamentalist Christian in her early teens her confidence increased and she was transformed into a fiery preacher, prone to lecturing her schoolmates and declaring that her atheist grandparents were doomed to hellfire.
I Was A Teenage Christian is a highly unusual stand-up show. Apart from a brief digression on how Brand found herself the default spokesperson Sky News approached for quotes on celebrity deaths the whole show is devoted to a single theme.
While there are plenty of laughs there are no obvious punchlines so the show becomes close to a theatrical monologue detailing how Brand became enthralled by a charismatic preacher and his church and the way in which, after seven years, she lost her faith. The theatrical aspect is reflected also in extensive use of props – Brand displays the memorabilia she has preserved from her time in the Church – and slide projections.
The tone of the show is less confessional and more self-lacerating; Brand is merciless in her self-assessment acknowledging that her self-righteous behavior made her a ‘total dick’. She hints also that her faith was a handy way of ducking the issue of teenage sex as it allowed her to hide behind a somewhat frumpy image. There is, however, a gentle life-affirming feel to the show as, rather than ostracising Brand, her schoolmates seem to regard her with some affection as an eccentric ‘Christian Spice.’
There are moments when the show tiptoes around some potentially dark material, such as an encounter with someone claiming to be possessed, that makes one wonder if Brand was ever at risk during her period with the church. Brand’s competitive and assertive personality is apparent even in her approach to religion – volunteering for every event and sulking when denied those duties she coveted – such as band practice with a singer she fancied
Brand’s baffled ‘What was I thinking?’ approach is so endearing that I Was A Teenage Christian becomes less a grim recollection of time wasted and more a tale of maturing. There is no single moment that prompts Brand to lose faith but rather a wearying growth of incidents, especially intolerance for anyone who asks questions, which make the charismatic style of preaching increasingly hard to take seriously.
There is a tendency for comedians who perform autobiographical material to go over the top and recall traumatic incidents. The low-key approach adopted by Katy Brand is actually more convincing bringing a mood of bittersweet regret that her time with the Church did not work out as she had hoped and that she can no longer share the certainties of faith.
Reviewed on 25 May 2017 | Image: Contributed