Few things in life are as hysterically funny, warm and generally uplifting as three hours with Mark Steel.
Few things are as hysterically funny, warm and generally uplifting as three hours with Mark Steel.
Hello Saffron Walden, he said with affectionate irony as he walked on stage at the town hall.
He was going to brighten up our bleak and miserable lives, living as we did in urban squalor.
Later on, as he lamented that all the bank branches had closed he said: “You’ll still have one - in a Tudor building.”
He knew we loved him, you could see because his face was beaming - as leapt about the stage, effortlessly shape-shifting his regional accents according to which anecdote he was regaling us with.
He seemed to think the town was full of suburbia’s most superior and that somehow he had stepped, as he put it, behind enemy lines.
He lampooned the Brexit debarcle, and then paused and said: indulgently: “You probably voted for it.”
Of course Brexit had gone wrong, he said: “The most serious move in 70 years and who have we got negotiating it, David Davies and Boris Johnson!
“You voted to set everything on fire and now it’s on fire.
“People are saying, we managed to survive the Blitz - yes, but we didn’t vote for the Blitz.”
And who have we got arguing the case for staying in?
“Tony Blair. You might have well have dug Savile up and have ‘im do it.”
As the audience roared with laughter into the third hour, he said: “I can’t believe I’m getting away with this.”
While he spoke, you could have heard the proverbial pin drop, we were putty in his hands, we were rapt with attention.
After several allusions to what he presumed was our social, political and psychological status, a male voiced called out plaintively: “There are some sane ones.”
This show was not the Mark Steel’s in Town visit that is broadcast on Radio 4 where he gets provincial towns to laugh at themselves.
This was his Edinburgh Show, Every Little Thing’s Gona Be Alright about two divorces: Brexit and his own, two subjects that shouldn’t have been funny.
He peppered his superbly polished delivery with allusion’s to to the town’s eccentricities - Saffron Walden’s maze, the stuffed lion in the museum and the general gentility of the townspeople’s surroundings.
In the mix, sensing an older audience, he described the exasperation of trying to buy something or do anything at all over the internet. At his wife’s command, he had driven to the garage to book his car in for a service.
“I didn’t want to do it online, and I didn’t want to phone them, I thought I would go down there.” Inexplicably, the person at the desk (standing there with a biro in hand and an open book on the counter) told Mark to go home and book it online because that was easier.
“How can that possibly be easier than writing it in the book in front of him?”
He explored all the modern syndromes and hang-ups that the modern person cherishes.
“We didn’t used to have all these compulsion orders...”
It was Wednesday, March 27, the night of the first Indicative Votes - eight of them.
Anything could be happening out there, he said.
“We could go out of here and find we are part of Poland.”
But then he added that things had a way of working out. All the music played before the show and during the interval had the phrase “all right” in the lyrics.
There was a warmth and intimacy in the room that you only get when a whole sold-out theatre has all laughed together.
It was a real tonic. Yet what would we find when we went out into the night.
Well nothing, actually. Absolutely nothing had happened. All eight parliamentary proposals were voted down.
The whole thing was going to have to have an encore.
Mark had one too. “You’ve been very sweet,” he told us.
Mark Steel’s Every Little Thing’s Gona Be Alright is still touring and will be at venues including Bedford Corn Exchange on April 4, Cambridge Junction on May 11, Colchester Mercury Theatre on May 16 and London Artsdepot on May 25.