Mark Thomas: A Show That Gambles

Stockton ARC, November 10 2017

It’s been around a year since Mark Thomas was in town, doing his show, The Red Shed . That show felt very much more ruminative in places, and more like a piece of performance art than stand-up. Tonight is very much more like you’d expect form Thomas: a frothing, fulminating tirade, punctuated by short breathing breaks. The premise is simple: a mic, a stage, and a bunch of suggestions for bets from the audience. Any winnings are set to be donated to charity (and he has a couple lined up, which will annoy some in the DUP – more about them in a bit).

He begins by talking about his upbringing. A family of proselytisers: his grandfather; his fighty builder Dad; his vicar sister. There’s an unfortunate Freudian slip, and a brief interlude while a middle aged man takes what is reckoned to be way too long for a three-pint pee.

He vents about the government, and its appeasement of the DUP. By the time he’s done he’s been bellowing “Save Ireland from Sodomy!”, and impersonating an Orangeman being vigorously bummed to the beat of a marching band.

But the rage is most apparent when he starts talking about Theresa May (the shittest supply Supply teacher ever), and how Boris Johnson will never resign (even if he were caught smearing shit on a homeless person’s face).

But we also get why would be great if David Attenborough really did assassinate Donald Trump, not to mention why pugs are terrible (because they’re a dog with Boris Johnson’s wank face).

After the interval come the predictions from the audience, and the vote on which ones the money collected this evening will actually be staked on. There’s a Kiwi bookie’s cashier in London who’s keen to find out.

In amongst this he truly kicks off about how screwed we are as a result of Brexit (but not before some in the audience try to convince him that independent for Yorkshire is a goer), and about tax avoidance. He’s positive about Corbyn, especially because he has stood on picket lines with the man, and scathing about the rudderless, clueless May.

The pick of the evening is surely the prediction that the Queen will be photographed at a daily party, in blackface, doing a dance. It goes down a storm. That’s where at least some of the money will go

He finishes with a brief story about his Dad, and Steptoe and Son. It’s a lovely, sweet way to finish the evening, after the volcano of earlier. And with that he’s gone.

Mark Thomas is a joy: a man who not only talks the talk, but has frequently walked the walk and been on the front line. He’s a unique voice, fired by that fire-and-brimstone upbringing, and more important perhaps, a conscience. These are are the people we need in such perilous times.