6 October, Common Room
Fringe in the ‘Stings 2017
A last-minute shift sees Cameron McLeod’s This is Steve show move from its scheduled venue to the garden bar of Common Room. The crowd is a patchwork of audience pinched from the show before and people who have come in early before their event, which is on after. It’s all unexpected. No one is sure whether Steve is a punter who drank too much Dutch courage and ran the stage, or a performer warming up, or a roadie – his dress and manner scream roadie – plus, it’s raining. And that all seems perfect when McLeod sets off into his Steve shtick. He’s an accidental hero, an unexpected romantic lead, and so infectious within a few minutes the crowd is going wild, literally on the tables, cheering Steve on. He’s got them.
McLeod’s animated face is like a ball of Blu-tack in its ability to shift nuance and mood subtly but with great emotional effect. His character Steve is a socially inept near-mute but is so endearing and warm, and so charismatic we all want to bottle him up and take him home. He flirts silently with the crowd – who love every minute – he plays with sound, or the lack of it, so what noises he does make are highlighted – as bright as his beanie – the blank spaces between accentuating the boom-cha punchlines we’re all making in our heads. It’s what’s not said that’s the funny bit.
Although authentically Kiwi – he’s all construction-worker, builder, bouncer, stop/go man – there is a touch of classic Tati about Steve. His is a brilliant exercise in understatement. In a festival season that’s required our skills in listening and thinking, McLeod’s Steve reminds us that all our senses are important, not just what we hear but what we feel. He says so much without saying anything at all. Reaction to him is a full-body experience, uncontrollable and under-thought. The body engages before the brain like watching the class-nerd break out some bop. Despite the rain, despite the ad-hoc, make-do nature of the setting, the crowd’s reaction is bigger and louder and more animated than it’s been for almost any other gig of the season. It’s reminiscent of gatherings we went to before we were adult enough to be real festival-goers, where a guy had a party trick and a funny look, and we had no expectations, then loved every minute of it.
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