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Steve Day: A Night At The Pictures

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

For his second full-length show, Steve Day has sensibly chosen to talk about a topic he feels passionately about: art.

It is his goal to succeed where many others have failed, and try to convert sceptics into sharing his enthusiasm; to persuade them that art is not the elitist preserve of the pretentious, but something everyone can enjoy.

Day himself is hardly in the Brian Sewell mould of erudite art-lover.  He’s just an ordinary bloke from an ordinary town, Stevenage, which he portrays as a place devoid of ideas, populated by unadventurous zombies unwilling to engage with anything outside their limited frame of reference.

But after stumbling upon a Rembrandt exhibition, Day became hooked – and now he wants to spread the gospel in this show, which carries the moral that we would  all be better people, with richer lives, if we expanded our horizons.

He’s a good person for the job. He is a great communicator – genuine, likeable and easy to listen to. But for all that’s going for him, this hour never really works, much as I wanted it too.  Instead of a comedy show, it feels much more like an enthusiast’s talk. An entertaining one, granted, but not one that’s much troubled with laughs.

Day attempts to engage us with the topic by showing us paintings and speculating about the artist’s inspirations; varying from the plausible to the unlikely. The former makes it feel like a lecture, the latter seems to sit uncomfortably with the genuine nature of the rest of the show.

He doesn’t venture too far from Rembrandt, either, which seems to limit potential subject matter too much – although Caravaggio, the painter with the most extreme life story of them all, also gets a fair show.

A few interesting concepts are thrown up in passing, too, notably a point about body image when the Dutch master paints his mistress looking far from a perfect specimen in a portrait that is, nonetheless, full of admiration and love compared to the starchly formal depiction of his wife.

But as a comedy show, this is no masterpiece, simply remaining an amiable hour in the company of an amiable man.

Review date: 1 Jan 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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