Thornton Heath’s Elliot Steel strides onto Bannerman’s stage with the confidence of a wolf. Tracksuit bottoms on, red bull in hand, what he does next would be sure to infuriate the British media and what they’re so desperately trying to project upon the youth of today. He sits nice and comfy on a stool, centre stage. Watch out, BoyZone.
This actually provides a lovely metaphor for Steel’s show, ‘Merked’. He spends the first ten minutes knocking down the stereotypes anyone who hasn’t seen his material before would probably unconsciously project upon a 22-year-old South-London white man. He’s gone sober (apart from cigarettes), his Dad is The Guardian’s own Mark Steel, and he’s spent the last year tackling his own repressed homosexuality.
His outlook is refreshingly intelligent when approaching themes such as toxic masculinity, therapy, hedonism and mental health. Diagnosed with depression, anxiety and ADHD, Steel is courageously open, again quashing any latent bias his observers may hold. It’s not at all doom and gloom, however. He utilises the palpable weight of these subjects, taking advantage of the tension created in astute quips which leave us all in tears from laughing.
An inherently wonderful performer, he engages with individuals in his crowd throughout with great affection and appreciation. It’s Steel’s writing, however, that really caught me off guard. Seamless transitions and divergent punchlines keep us all on our toes. His joke about a trolley is my favourite one-liner of the Fringe thus far. An inventive hour of witticism hosted by a very charming comic.