Mark Thomas Oct09


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Mark Thomas


Mark Thomas: Ascending Dissent

Mark Thomas is describing his current show: “My shows have a certain element of participation. I love that idea – that the show exists outside the theatre; that people do things, become part of the show, or become part of the idea of the show. That’s really exciting. It’s about joining in… there is a certain democracy to it.”

The show is based on the task he has set himself: to commit 100 acts of minor dissent from May 13th 2013 to the stroke of midnight on 13th May 2014. The results are described as hilarious, subversive and mainly legal.

He makes preparing for and structuring a show that changes every night sound deceptively easy. “I know what it is that I want to talk about and I know what’s happened and I just think: I’ll put it in that order. If I ever hear you accuse me of actually writing anything down, I shall sue.”

“The culture of the Left has gone well into a decline”

He clearly enjoys giving the show a life beyond the stage and getting people motivated, but what does he think of the current state of political activism in Britain?

“It would be really easy to cite anecdotal evidence to answer that either way. I work with a lot of people who are activists, who get out and do stuff, whether it is working at a food bank or trying to save a swimming pool. It might be that I just want to be with those people or I seek them out, so I can’t tell you whether we are more apathetic or less. I can tell you that the culture of the Left has gone well into a decline from the 80s. Certainly when I was a student…politics was an integral part of our lives. The culture that went with it has certainly been attacked and the Left itself has been ground down and or imploded in some cases. But actually you see loads of examples where you can’t keep it down. The idea of radical ideas and the notion of dissent itself is something that’s just there. These days it often appears in Twitter, e-flyers, on websites, all that sort of thing – and that’s exciting. I wouldn’t necessarily all gone, it’s just changed.”

This show marks a return to the mischief-making we’re used to from Thomas. By comparison, his last show was a deeply personal affair about the death of his father.

“I love the fact that life is complex – that characters can be complex and paradoxical, I think that’s really exciting. And my Dad was extremely paradoxical. And I loved the fact that our relationship was difficult and that we fought for it. There is something wilfully lovely about that. I miss him everyday. And yes, in doing the show there was an element of catharsis and of unity and of bearing witness. But I love the values he had – that he had working class aspirations and that self-improvement was a really important thing. That cultural improvement and education are wonderful things. And they’re things that he fought for and I adored that. I also loved the fact that he was a really big, physically intimidating fighting man who was not afraid to life his fists up and was a very vocal Tory supporter. I loved the fact of being proud and honest of my family – doesn’t matter to me that he was a Tory to me. He was my dad.

“The show was about how we as a family dealt with a difficult relationship and a man who was going through a degenerative illness. It was very personal, very intense…a labour of love. There’s a little part of you at the end of something like that that says let’s just have some fun now. Having taken a year out of politics to be with my Dad and my family, I wanted to get back to it very quickly and in a full on way and I thought, what better way than this.”

What better way indeed – though he’ll be suffering his self-induced political pain if he fails to achieve his 100 tasks by his deadline: he’s promised to give £1000 to UKIP.
“I can’t stomach it…but if it comes to that I will have to do it. And then I shall have to wander off into the wilderness like Profumo and work for some charity for years.”.

I have a feeling it won’t come to that.

Mark Thomas, 100 Acts of Minor Dissent, on tour now. For full details see / TWITTER: @markthomasinfo

photo by Steve Ullathorne