As if somehow the title of his performance didn’t make it clear – Stephen Hill is an angry man.
Whether he’s ranting away about his grandmother’s absurd theories on unemployment, his infuriating drama school contemporaries from years before, or the patronising nature of ‘diet empathy’ from skinny people who haven’t suffered the existential lows of an adolescent chocolate addiction, the best moments in Hill’s show come when he allows his clear dismay and disappointment with many aspects of life out in the form of short, sharp bursts of satirical rage, literally shouting and fuming down the mic. Here, his wit was sharp, his energy engrossing, and the laughs came hard.
Also present is an undeniably sad undercurrent to ‘Lifestyles of the Shit and Worthless’. Starting and ending with reflections on Hill’s own failed aspirations to be an actor, a seed planted while watching an Oscar-winning Tom Hanks in his youth, he uses the comedown of a developing detachment to the notion of fame to examine the emphasis we place on success and recognition, the hollow nature of celebrity culture, and the needless pressure we perhaps all place on ourselves to ‘matter’ when we might just find we’ve mattered plenty all along anyway.
A critique of celebrity culture, whilst highlighted in the show’s synopsis as a central theme, really just revolved around his own lamentations at a failed shot at stardom, as well as clever sections offering sinister re-readings of Busted lyrics and some Ted Danson wordplay that sadly tonight saw it’s climactic Lionel Richie themed punch-line skim over most of the audience’s heads.
Unfortunately the momentum of the show failed to carry the whole way through. Hill spent slightly too long meandering through some of the less entertaining segments of the piece, his natural energy and onstage charisma temporarily distilled, and the performance didn’t end quite as explosively as the opening sections had suggested it would.
In his final moment at the microphone, Hill glumly considered his reality, destined not to be a famous actor, and perhaps destined not to be a famous comedian either, finally considering with simple humanity that perhaps these things aren’t what he and we should be aiming for in our quest for meaning anyway. And whilst I agree, it would nevertheless be a shame if Hill completely gave up on his aspirations just yet, because with a bit of tightening up and a focus on the more intense, quick-witted and animated side of his act, we could have an exciting talent on our hands.