Adele Cliff is, by her own admission, a nerd. She’s something of a worrier, too, hence her adolescent anxiety at being likened to a sheep in Animal Farm by her schoolmates. Sheep, her debut hour of standup, is all about her coming to terms with her innate sheepishness.
It’s a very personal show, Cliff candidly but casually discussing her family (her parents love her younger, successful scientist siblings better, apparently), her childhood (the difficulty of growing up in middle-class Cambridgeshire), and her struggles with popularity (a nerd in school, she was something of a rebel hero in Girl Guides).
It’s cleverly structured, too, and stuffed full of really well-crafted one-liners. Plus some truly terrible ones. “I’m really good at steering a kayak,” she quips. “Canoe?”
Cliff is aiming at a slightly self-effacing, slightly self-obsessed, slightly dorky sort of lovableness. There’s just one problem: she doesn’t have a particularly natural stage presence. Yet. She’s got bags of geeky charm, but she races through her material at a breathless lick. What should take an hour ends up taking closer to 45 minutes.
There’s just not a lot of spark, not much spontaneity, either in the delivery of her material, which sometimes sounds closer to a recital than a performance, or in her audience interaction, which is awkward and uncertain. A few more pauses, a little more chill, and the quality of her writing would shine through. As it is, she’s just a bit rushed.