Writer: Mark Steel
Reviewer: Fergus Morgan
There’s probably nowhere in Britain that Mark Steel doesn’t know some peculiar, revealing fact about. His Edinburgh Fringe show, Mark Steel’s In Toon, is a mix of some more prepared material about politics, football fans and the great English cup of tea, and some more cobbled together stuff about Scotland, its history, and its culture.
Aided by a slideshow and some printed notes, Steel picks out the foibles and quirks of various Scottish towns, presenting them to his audience with his own indignantly amused spin, and lets the laughs come rolling in. It is simple stuff, but it can be side-splittingly funny nonetheless.
Did you know, for example, that a fierce rivalry exists between Orkney and Shetland (“How do you know ET is from Shetland? Because he looks like he does” is a gem of a joke Steel uncovered in Orkney)? Did you know that Paisley, in an effort to disguise the empty shops on its high street, bizarrely decided to cover them up with dozens of imaginary fake frontages? And did you know that the philosopher David Hume, a statue of whom sits on the Royal Mile with toes rubbed golden by thousands of fingers searching for good luck, was actually fiercely opposed to superstition? Mark Steel knows all this and more, and makes light of it with wit and dexterity, displaying a remarkable command of accents as he does so.
This is middle-of-the-road, largely inoffensive comedy, with Steel aiming for guaranteed laughs with his old-man-exasperated-by-modern-world rants and nailing them every time. But mixed in among this middle-aged irritation is an uplifting celebration of Britain’s diversity and vitality. Despite his insistence on mocking everywhere from Looe to Leith, Steel evokes a genuine fondness for this green and pleasant land, warts and all. And that’s a valuable skill to have at a time like this.
Runs until 28August 2016