Steel in a strange town!

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Date – Saturday April 28th 2012, 8pm.

Venue -The Wilde Theatre, The South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell, Berkshire.

Who- Mark Steel.

Genre- Comedy/Politics/Life!

Tour- In Town.

Mark Steel (born 4 July 1960) is an English socialist columnist, author and comedian.

A stand-up comedian known for his left-wing beliefs (he was a long-standing member of the Socialist Workers Party before he resigned in 2007), he has made many appearances on radio and television shows as a guest panelist, and has written regular columns in printed media. He is perhaps best known for presenting The Mark Steel Lectures, The Mark Steel Revolution, The Mark Steel Solution and Mark Steel’s in Town.

Now Mark Steel is a funny guy, but don’t expect Lee Evans inspired lunacy at one of his gigs. In essence Mark is basically a social observer and raconteur.Yes, he clearly has strong left-wing political views, and if you have read either of his superb books ‘Reasons to be cheerful’ and ‘What’s going on?’ you will have some idea what to expect from Mark live.

This tour is titled ‘In town’, and has a loose theme based around talking about the town or city he is playing in. Pre performance the audience were warmed up with tracks with a town theme, and I was delighted to hear ‘Strange Town’ from the Jam, which I hadn’t heard for a quite a while, they were my favourite band of the late 70s, early 80s.

This was the third time we’d seen Mark live over a three or four-year period, and yes like most comedians there is some repetition of jokes and stories. But generally this was quite a fresh set, as he treated us to amusing stories of some of the other towns he’d visited, whilst dipping in and out of referencing Bracknell. Which he rightly referred to as “a town of f*cking roundabouts, going nowhere”. Which as a non Bracknell resident myself has always been the most obvious thing when driving through it, and it’s fair to say it’s quite an ugly new town, having grown since WW2 with its many hideous 1960s buildings (‘The planners dream gone wrong’ The Jam/1982), without it really having a town centre as such to give it any unity. Strange then perhaps that the South Hill Park Arts Centre, which is situated in an old manor house, and has stunning grounds which are so attractive, actually as is the Wilde theatre with its balconies intimately hanging over the stage and stalls.

Mark is bloody good value, he plays two 1 hour ish sets with a short interval. He has good ability to mimic, and to turn his voice to the likes of John Arlott (cricket radio commentator) a West Indian Rasta man to a bellowing Ian Paisley. He touches on sport in reference to his social observations, especially his love of football and cricket, although he doesn’t mention his team Crystal Palace directly, the photos he displayed on the big screen on his travels around the UK showed him proudly wearing his Palace scarf, and I know he sits very close to me at Selhurst Park.

If you are a dyed in the wool Tory, and can’t tolerate a bad word about them or their politics, then you might find Mark hard work, although really he is never nasty in his occasional diatribes against them. But what he is, though, is consistently funny and engaging as he lurches from political comment to observations about a drunk in the pub or how awkward his own son is now he has reached puberty and all the behaviours this has produced.

Go and see him, you won’t regret it 🙂 If not, buy his book, I’m sure it’s good!

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