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Steve Hall: Very Still Life

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

Comedy works by exaggerating the trivial – just how many Edinburgh shows are based on an incident in a stand-up’s life, blown up to provide supposedly great insight into the state of this world.

Well, Steve Hall’s gone the other way, and downplayed what’s been a huge part of his life – the bureaucratic problems that kept him and his Australian wife apart for eight months, merely because he didn’t submit the correct amount of paperwork to secure her visa. ‘I know this is in danger of being a very middle-class whinge,’ he says at the start of the show – and at the end adds: ‘This is a small thing, but to me it’s big.’

It epitomises Hall’s unfussy, almost Dogme-like, approach to stand-up – to keep steadfastly to the truth, and use no special effects to tell his tales. It makes for a subdued hour, and although there’s wit and modest charm here, there is absolutely no danger of socks being blown off.

He admits that despite a Catholic-Jewish background made up of Scottish, Irish and Ukrainian genes, he has the typical reserve of the English lower-middle-class, socially awkward and not good with confrontation. Or in his own, typically mild, words, he’s ‘too much of a wally’.

The one time he did stand up for himself – knowing that he could do so safely on an Australian railway platform – is regaled here, though it naturally ends in humiliation. Elsewhere there are tales of his long-distance relationship, of encroaching middle age, and of his ‘wonderfully mental dad’ – which must be a common trait of former We Are Klang members, given Greg Davies’s storming show on his mad father.

Often it’s Hall’s wife or surprisingly homophobic dad who comes up with the best lines, either by accident or design, and Hall comes across as a second-hand reporter of funny comments; although his comedy editor is well-tuned, and he only serves up the best of what he hears.

The show loses its way a bit in the final quarter, not particularly helped by his low-key delivery, but there’s a good few chuckles on the way. And he is giving the world the below-the-belt slang phrase ‘squid beak’, and for that we should be grateful.

Review date: 11 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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