INTERVIEW: Mark Thomas | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

Narc. Magazine Online

Reliably informed

Image by Steve Ullathorne

Newcastle’s Live Theatre will become a haven of storytelling, stand-up and mischief this month, as comedian and activist Mark Thomas hosts a banquet of events at the venue from Thursday 14th-Sunday 17th November.

Coming under the banner of The Mark Thomas Project, the often controversial comic is known for his satirical look at politics and the state of the world. Recent shows have dealt with the time his friend was caught spying on him for Britain’s largest arms dealer, the year he spent living provocatively and committing 100 acts of minor dissent, and his despair at the alarming state of the NHS.

The politically tactile comedian seeks to educate as he entertains, and the programme fittingly kicks off with Don’t Tell ‘Em It’s Theatre, a lecture on Thomas’ life and career, during which introspective beginnings give way to plenty of activist events.

His latest work in progress, 50 Things About Us, is an exploration of British identity and will get an airing on Friday 15th and Saturday 16th, and it’s certain that the ‘B word’ will feature highly. “The thing about Brexit is that it is about identity, who we think we are and what we think ‘they’ are doing to us.” He explains. “Brexit is about English exceptionalism – this idea that we can go it alone in glorious isolation, which is a really selective vision of history. This idea that the industrial revolution had no helping hand from slavery or that the Empire was built on benevolence and British grit is a nonsense. Our history around us is a history of absence. Look at our famous boats – HMS Victory, the Titanic, the Cutty Sark, Gypsy Moth – nowhere to be seen is the most important ship in British history: the slave ship. I wanted to look at the things that made us, that we ignore, that are not really who we are, and that we might not know about that make us who we really are.”

The politically tactile comedian seeks to educate as he entertains

On Saturday 16th Mark takes a deep dive into the national child poverty epidemic with a lecture which discusses the effects of poverty on children. “Child poverty is THE screaming outrage of our time. A member of my family who works in a primary school in the South West has to collect funds to pay for a washing machine for the school, because kids are turning up with dirty clothes week in week out. It’s £4 for a box of Daz that people can’t afford to keep children clean and out of the way of stigma. Child poverty is notable in Newcastle, but what is also interesting for me is that you have Mike Ashley owner of Newcastle United, a billionaire associated with low wages and zero hour contracts – BUT you also have an amazing food collection system at home games to help food banks. For me, you can see everything you need to see about Britain in this.”

The final evening will see the theatre host Mark Thomas’ The Manifesto, his radio show in which the audience is invited to contribute to the written constitution of an idyllic version of British society. 

Too often, the socialist goals of political activism seem unattainable and unrealistic. But what Mark Thomas campaigns for – proper education that’s true to history and proper funding that can make a real difference for our next generation – is absolutely possible. If only we could sit down and just listen for a minute, we might be able to learn how to do it.

The Mark Thomas Project is at Live Theatre, Newcastle from Thursday 14th-Sunday 17th November

 

Like this story? Share it!