Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mark Steel

19 November 2014

This Monday was the third time we have seen the comedian Mark Steel at The Stables in Wavendon – and I think he has got better and better (I previously reviewed him here in June 2006 and May 2009). This week's performance was 'Mark Steel's Back in Town', building on the BBC Radio 4 series (reviewed here in January 2014) in which he constructs shows about the towns in which he is performing. The live version of the show exploited the growing body of stories he is amassing about the various towns he has visited – a sort of 'Mark Steel's in Town' greatest hits, featuring tales from Abergavenny, Aldershot, Hackney, Wigan and more. Then in the second half his focus was squarely on Milton Keynes. He does extensive research into each town and spends some time there before the show. On Monday he visited the museum at Bletchley Park, the Grand Union Canal and numerous roundabouts and was genuinely shocked to discover that the National Hockey Stadium is now the headquarters of Network Rail. His gentle ridiculing of a place and its people has much in common with Bill Bryson's travelogues – but Mark Steel is brave enough to mock a town in front of an audience of locals. He gets away with this by mixing criticism with wonder, enthusiasm and humility, helping us to celebrate, as well as laugh at, our locality. He has become a very accomplished performer, drawing on his research without interrupting the flow of a stand-up performance and conjuring scenes and characters with an impressive range of accents and physical acting. He's also incredibly funny. If Mark Steel's in your town, don't miss him!

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