Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
Steve Hall explains that the strange title of his tour – Zebra– comes from the observation that, if you hear the sound of hooves, it is more like to come from horses than zebras. Hall prefers to take a contrary approach and explore the unexpected aspects of life although, typical of the mood of the show, he does so in a decidedly modest manner concentrating on the intimacy of family life.
Hall’s approach to audience banter is unusual. Rather than build a relationship with the audience he cheerfully accepts that most have never heard of him. Hall is more a storyteller than a comedian – there are no real punchlines to the routines. His careworn demeanour lacks the sophistication that would enable him to be called a raconteur and his humble approach suggests he would not be comfortable with such a posh title. Humility is the defining characteristic of Zebra.
The stories are usually self-deprecating or at Hall’s expense and rarely stray outside of his autobiographical comfort zone of family life. The closest Hall comes to politics is a dig at the Royal Family and the acknowledgement, as a (self described) slightly peculiar looking Jew, to holding a prejudice against Germans.
Even the technology utilised to perk up the stories is old fashioned. Rather than rely on computers to project images onto screens Hall displays enlarged photographs. As these are inevitably of his family at times Zebra feels like being stuck with the new father who won’t stop showing you his baby photos.
Hall, like all parents, holds the assumption that everyone shares their fascination with their child and extends this misconception to include his whole family. However, apart from a bizarre story of an aunt who provided a sexual service for a cinema legend, the family is not so eccentric as to support an entire show. Occasionally you do wish Hall could widen his scope.
Zebra is undeniably cosy but is saved from being cloying by Hall’s tersely witty wordplay. Adjusting to living with another person in the early days of his marriage is described as going through the ‘red tape of romance’ and a particularly ugly child as a ‘war crime in human form’.
Zebra is a warm and consistently funny show but a lack of ambition prevents it from being as engaging as one might wish.
Reviewed on 14February 2016 | Image: Contributed