Stewart Francis: Outstanding in his Field
Stewart Francis has gone on record as stating that a narrative, storytelling form of comedy is not for him. He wants to give crowds more ‘bang for their buck’ by delivering a barrage of jokes and so it’s quite simple to conclude whether a Francis show is a glorious success or not. And to these ears (as well as some of those trooping out of the Festival Theatre who declared themselves a mite disappointed), there were more zingers per minute in his last full show, Tour de Francis, than during Outstanding in His Field.
None of which is to say that Francis can’t have even the most cynical viewer doubled up through the power of his wordcraft and delivery. He also has a real sense of pacing an interval-free set with two segments featuring a cluster of gags that brilliantly and consistently hit the mark before giving the audience some room to find their breath again with equally clever but ultimately less spectacular one-liners.
One skill Francis has appeared to have within his armoury is an ability to broach contentious territory yet somehow comes up smelling of roses. Here he has jokes which are effectively routines about incest which come over as warm and cuddly. Still, he had one antagonist in the room behind me who took a degree of offence at one joke about a degenerative disease, presumably a case of a gag which was too close to home. For Stewart Francis, it’s not exactly a case of heading back to the drawing board as he still has more top-drawer gags than your average one-line comic. But it’s possible he may have set the bar too high for himself.
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Sat 3 Nov.