Mark Steel’s in town, for the first time on the Fringe in nineteen years. Although Steel has ‘done’ Leith as part of his endlessly entertaining explorations of various locations, ‘Mark Steel’s in Town’, as well as a single sold-out night at the Traverse a couple of years back, ‘Mark Steel – Who Do I Think I Am?’ represents his return to the Fringe after a long absence.
Predictably, this is no standard stand-up routine, but is instead a study in genealogy. Those familiar with Steel’s background will be aware that he spent his childhood years in Swanley in Kent.
Rather less well known is that he was adopted, although Steel himself knew this at an early age, his adoptive parents never having made a secret of it.
As is often the case, Steel decided to try and trace his real parents, and his attempts to do so form the basis of this show.
The result is revelatory, often hugely entertaining and occasionally slightly sad, and through it all something of Steel’s indefatigable cheerfulness keeps breaking in, keeping the audience laughing to the end.
To reveal the results of Steel’s researches would be something of a ‘spoiler’, sufficient to say that they are as unexpected as one imagines they were to Steel himself.
What makes this one of the more worthwhile tickets of the Fringe is, of course, Steel’s ability to charm and win over audiences, largely on the basis of his own engaging personality. One senses that it is his imperturbable equanimity and genuine interest in the vagaries of human behaviour and response that propelled him into a career in comedy and continue to ensure his obvious popularity and appeal.
A far better show than this review may have communicated, ‘Mark Steel – Who Do I Think I Am?’ is well worth your time and ticket money.
August 5-30 at 20.15 hrs (Fringe programme p.136).