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Reshape While Damp

A vulnerable, damaged, dog-fearing Jewish woman

    Naomi Paul, an Oxford University graduate who teaches English as a foreign language, performs "persona-based comedy for a discerning audience". So says her flyer, at any rate. And when I pitched up at a rare moment when it wasn't actually damp in Edinburgh, it was a very discerning audience of four - including me.

    Her character is that of a vulnerable, damaged, dog-fearing Jewish woman, who speaks in a halting, deadpan voice and lives on her own in Birmingham. Her idea of a Saturday night out on the town is a trip to the local hospital after she has chopped her finger while making a leek-and-potato soup at midnight.

    "There's new scientific evidence about Jesus being Jewish," she says, fixing us with an approval-seeking look. "He lived with his mother till he was 30, he thought she was a virgin, and she thought he was God."

    Confiding early on that she is Jewish ("lapsed Reform", as it turns out), she adds: "Being Jewish can be quite inconvenient - as Jesus found out. If I hadn't have told you I was Jewish, you wouldn't have known it, because I don't look Jewish ... and, of course, some of my best friends are English."

    By the time she had interacted with an audience member in a hesitant ball-throwing game and held her "bleeding" finger in the air in a Nazi-style salute, the awkwardness was so convincing that when she revealed she had been on a flirting course, and, making direct eye contact, asked me not to write about it, I agreed. But that, she said later, was part of the act.

    The grey area left me undecided as to whether I'd seen a compelling piece of character acting - Paul, from Handsworth, also has degrees in creative writing and has been on the national circuit for two years - or one that was courageous but cringe-worthy. So there's an extra star there, just in case.

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