Shropshire Star

Stewart Lee, Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury - review

The sexual practices of impoverished Midlanders are not your usual stand-up material but then Stewart Lee is no ordinary comedian.

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Stewart Lee performed at a sold-out Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury

Politics, 80s music and the history of bondage all featured in the Wellington-born comic's Content Provider show at Theatre Severn last night.

After nearly three decades in comedy, Lee has built a strong regular following and almost all of the Shrewsbury crowd were laughing throughout.

Despite being sold out the theatre was not quite full - 'big enough for touts to snap up the tickets, but not big enough for anyone to buy them', Lee quipped. But then if he had it his own way he'd be playing to an empty room and not one where spare seats are filled by punters who don't 'get' his hypocrisy-hating style of humour.

Brexit and Trump are the bread and butter of stand-up routines at the moment, but as ever Lee tackled the topics with his unique blend of well-crafted anecdotes, four-letter expletives and slap-stick visual comedy.

Labelling people who voted Brexit as selfish ****s is always a risk, but Lee's Brexit barrage brought the first applause of the night from at least 48 per cent of the audience.

And, guided by the tattoo-like notes scrawled on his hand, he still found time for his staple mick-taking of the 'liberal metropolitan elite' and anti-PC brigade.

Never one to miss out on mocking observational comedians, Russell Howard and Peter Kay bore the brunt as the 49-year-old revelled in prancing across the stage imitating his younger peers' formulaic routines.

The irony, of course, is that Lee's routines also follow a formula - but one packed with rants, tangents, and step-by-step explanations of when and why you should laugh.

Although he's been on the road for more than 15 months, the jokes still seemed fresh and Lee looked like he was loving it - crunching over the stand-up DVDs that decorated the stage next to Caspar David Friedrich’s painting Wanderer above the Sea of Fog.

Lee is a master of making a well-honed set seem like improv and, despite the show coming late in the UK tour, the audience were constantly unsure of which jokes were scripted and which were ad-libbed.

Oswestry, the Wrekin and Church Stretton all featured and each local line was well received - even by the couple at the front who were regularly used as an illustration of why Lee hates the under-40s.

At times the momentum waned and no joke had the entire audience laughing as one - 'that's right Shrewsbury, clap when you agree' - but no more than a few seconds went by without at least one section of the eclectic crowd guffawing with glee (or horror).

What were perhaps the two stand-out moments book-ended the gig. The opening warning about the risks of being caught with a phone hilariously made clear the performance wasn't one for the kids, while the arty finale poetically wrapped up the performance.

His BBC2 Comedy Vehicle show may have been cancelled, but here Lee showed why his ability to critique modern society in a powerful and hilarious way continues to sell out theatres across the country.