Mark Steel

Norwich Playhouse

Norwich Playhouse

Comedians don't come much more political than Mark Steel.

A respected author, journalist and broadcaster, his roots are in the Thatcher-baiting alternative comedy scene of the 1980s.

Having been sacked from the Guardian (allegedly for his radical left-wing views) in 2000, he stood as a candidate representing the London Socialist Alliance. Collaboration with Andrew Lloyd Webber seems doubtful.

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His crusading zeal is the beating heart of his current show, which explores the course of the French revolution.

With boyish fringe and green leather jacket, Steel exudes the wide-eyed enthusiasm of an idealistic young lecturer, and his obvious sincerity makes for an enjoyable evening.

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There were moments of great wit delivered with expert timing, for instance when he mused on the incomprehensible fury of punk rock song intros.

But these tended to be interludes before he doggedly returned to his often-ponderous narrative.

By hanging the jokes on to this didactic framework, any comic momentum was stymied until the next digression, resulting in a humorous lecture rather than stand-up comedy.

At times fascinating, often strangely avuncular, Mark Steel deserves credit for his declared aim of reclaiming history from the stuffy and elitist. Only, next time, can we have more jokes please?

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