When Bridget Christie bounds onto the stage in a bishop’s vestments and mitre, running around the audience distributing crackers and squeezes of water, and then a couple of minutes later declares herself a devout Catholic, you know she’s not going to be like other comedians, or like other Catholics. ‘I have faith,’ she comments, ‘but you know, I’m not mad’; and then gives me a hard time for laughing harder than anyone else in the room.
Christie’s uniqueness in this set is to deconstruct the inconsistencies and comic fallibilities of organised religion from a believer’s perspective, not so much a counter-blast as a mirror-image to the incredulous mocking of the atheist comedians that form most of her social circle.
She’s genial enough in her nerviness that even with what appears to be a typical Fringe comedy audience of beards in glasses, she can poke gentle fun at the doyens of atheism themselves. Discussing a meeting with Richard Dawkins, she accuses him of wearing Jesus sandals, and when he asserts his own identity – ‘I am Richard Dawkins!’ – her riposte is Biblically potent: ‘You say you are him…’ But she’s unafraid to engage with her own sacred cows, taking on the Pope’s disastrous media management and terrorising the audience with an uncontrollable baby Jesus doll in the tradition of Rod Hull and Emu.
Her strength is her knowledge Ð although she expresses astonishment at the well-informed sceptics who understand more about her faith than she does, she clearly knows each ritual and citation inside out, which allows her the freedom to turn them completely on their heads.
There are moments, particularly nearer the start, where the set drags, where her ‘is-this-thing-on?’ milking of minor failures seems to be used more frequently than one would imagine was originally intended, but her uneasy delivery is part of her charm, and it’s not a criticism to suggest that her work is best suited to this small and receptive space.
A little off the beaten comedy track, certainly, but still an insightful look at the cultural crosses all believers have to bear, and a refreshingly impious performance.