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Rebellious spirit reveals comic's mettle

PUBLISHED: 23:48 24 March 2011 | UPDATED: 16:43 25 March 2011

Mark Steel hadn't quite expected Norwich. The comedian's latest show comprises a relaxed journey through the UK, exploring the quirks of each location. And it seems what marks out Norwich is a tendency to throw him off guard, but also to goad the best out of him.

The first half of the show - with some railing at Tesco towns and the homogency of head office rule - was gently entertaining but lacked the energy and originality that makes live comedy, so much so it seems that one audience member feel asleep.

But that (for a performer) tragic incident proved a catalyst, sparking Mark in to a dialogue with the audienced that showed him at his witty best.

His planned second-half set quickly fell apart, massively over-ran and was replaced with improvised routines on Ditchingham chickens, Durham’s challenge to Norwich’s mustard crown, and a surprisingly heated discussion about the possible locations of Norfolk’s steam railways.

There was a pleasing amount of genuine local material in his set; a change from comedians whose facade of interest amounts to an identikit joke using a local placename. Namechecks for Norfolk progeny ran as diverse as Tom Paine and DJ Tim Westwood.

He said he wants to celebrate rebellion, so go seem him tonight, heckle, and do different. Both he and you will be better for it.

Mark returns to the Playhouse on Friday, March 25.

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