There are a faithful few who have long held the conviction that the valleys of Wales are swathed in much more comedy gold than a few sheep and a son of his own granddad could ever account for. Thankfully, after years of irrefutable evidence to the contrary, Steve Williams has proven his lauders correct and come of age as one of Britain’s best stand-up performers.
This much is true, but the fact still remains that out there, on the loose, is a stone deaf auditioner for the Underbelly and an agent even Barry from Eastenders would lose patience with. Together, these men have conspired to limit Williams’ immense talent to a 50-seater ironing-board cupboard on the Cowgate. Still, I suppose he’ll get to play to a packed house every night.
Williams is immediately at ease in the intimate space he has been granted, ballsing up the PA announcement and shattering the ridiculous illusion of the stand-up intro as if he were down the pub with a few mates. In the first five minutes he ticks all the boxes of any reviewer’s wish list: effortless audience interaction, inventive and adaptable use of his material and some of the best natural improvisation you will see at the Fringe this year.
In an hour filled with a constant torrent of laughter, Williams never strays far from the hilariously absurd: Churchill trying to sell a holiday in Europe to his army, a six-man team of Frank Spencer impersonators and a sullen dolphin concerned about his accent problem: “I’m Welsh? How can this be? I took all the precautions.”
God knows why Williams is reduced to playing such a pathetic venue, but perhaps it’s not such a bad thing because next year you’ll be digging out your granny’s opera glasses before you head off to see him.