mon 20/09/2021

Mark Thomas, Soho Theatre review - new state-of-the-nation show | reviews, news & interviews

Mark Thomas, Soho Theatre review - new state-of-the-nation show

Mark Thomas, Soho Theatre review - new state-of-the-nation show

Post-Brexit Britain under the spotlight

Mark Thomas had some interesting insights into our history

Mark Thomas comes on stage unannounced. It's not a show of humility – rather, he told us, amused at his own mistake, that his hearing isn't what it used to be and he had misheard his music cue. It was a modest start to his new show 50 Things About Us, which he is giving a runout at Soho Theatre before touring with it later in the year.

It has been 18 months since he last gigged, but there were few signs of rustiness as Thomas described what has been happening to him during his enforced layoff from live performance. He developed Type 2 diabetes, for a start – “the kind you have to overeat for” – but didn't seize the chance to learn a new skill. As if.

Besides, he spent the first few months of lockdown with his mother, a woman who Thomas fans know is of great comedic worth, and so it proved as he recounted some of their interactions. He was at pains to declare his love for his mum, as he then described her gloriously cantankerous nature

And then, as is his wont, Thomas did a deep dive into the current political climate, and he's not happy. Several members of the UK government got it in the neck, but his real anger and passion was reserved for Boris Johnson. As for Dido Harding; well, you can imagine.

He then moved on to the substantive part of the show, about who we are as a nation post-Brexit and (one hopes soon) post-Covid.

It was largely English (not British) exceptionalism that delivered Brexit he said, but a quick scoot through history would tell us that there is nothing exceptional about the English, and shows how facile the “two World Wars and one World Cup” is as a worldview. The show is nicely inclusive as Thomas tested our knowledge on all sort of things – British history, the Empire, national anthems, to name a few – to illustrate some points.

Along the way the comic delivered some interesting and original insights on all manner of subjects – Northern Ireland politics, Gibraltar's Britishness and the invention of crazy golf among them – and I suspect that most in the audience, like me, left the theatre knowing an awful lot more than when they went in.

There was the occasional nod to work in progress as Thomas fluffed a line or went back on himself to tell an anecdote that had just entered his head. But rusty? WD40 not required.

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