Mark Steel:Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Alright

Stockton ARC, 23 March 2018

So, here he is, the man who people are always mistaking for Mark Thomas (and vice versa, to Thomas’ chagrin and amusement). Actually, as he’s capering around the stage tonight, there’s a slight and occasionally disconcerting echo of second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, but that’s by the by.

The opening gambits are largely what you’d might expect, with some local material and gentle fencing to size up the crowd. But he certainly calls Stockton right (it’s a bit fighty). And the audience, of which there are many, and from far and wide (even including Guernsey and Germany) lap it up.

He begins by talking about how things are now. And to do that, he has to talk about the B word. Steel says he’s not hugely partisan either way, but now it’s really becoming a disaster he’s finding the whole Brexit car crash hilarious. He says the proof of that can be found by looking at who’s running this circus. And when you’re looking at David Davis and Boris Johnson, theres only really one way you can go.

But this is just a way into him talking about how things have changed in the last couple of years. Brexit shows it at a macroscopic level, but he also wants to link that to how life has changed in the last couple of years for him. Specifically, this means his divorce. But to get there he has to start at the beginning: how he met his wife, and how they started to grow apart. He’ll return to that then later.

To finish the first half, he ends up talking about the current climate of lionising what can only be called arseholes, and monetising everything. That led to a riff on ambulance chasing compensation companies after his car accident (during which he was in bed asleep).

After the interval there’s a little of the “grumpy old man”, as Steel starts to talk about the paralysis of choice, and how we’re inundated by it. This returned to the monetisation thread, and led into his recall of the process of mediation he and his ex-wife went through.

And now of course, he’s a single man in his 50s, so he talked about how strange that feels, but how he feels like he’s coming through that and how, in line with the show’s title, he is feeling more optimistic, even now. Why well, because he says that people aren’t like way the way the media portray them. There’s more compassion and warmth out there than some would have us think, and it’s not hopeless. Sometimes change creeps up on us, and we don’t know that it’s happening. Then, BANG! It hits you, and you have to readjust. But you can, because that’s part of being human. It’s an oddly uplifting message that he leaves us with.

Well, until the encore, where he comes back out and shoots the breeze for a bit, having a bit of chummy and relaxed banter with us in the audience. And while it’s not quite Ken Dodd for length, it’s 11 before he goes off. What a great night, delivered by a master of his craft.