COMEDY REVIEW: Mark Thomas – Black And White @ The Stand, Newcastle (29.11.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Mark Thomas is a nice guy. Years ago I was in Waterstones picking up a copy of one of the then-incoming US President Barack Obama’s books, when I chanced upon Mark, lurking around ahead of an imminent book signing. We chatted for a while and I – in an act of unconscionable rudeness – asked him to sign Obama’s book instead of his own, copies of which were piled high nearby. Many a lesser author, much less a famously acerbic one like this, would have rightly swatted me away, kicked me up the arse even, but this one didn’t. Mark Thomas is a nice guy. 

But, like all nice people, he has a limit, one now reached, breached and left thoroughly in the distant sunlit uplands of flickering memory, before twelve years of brutal Tory rule inflicted generational damage on the United Kingdom. 

Niceness has its limits, and, as Mark points out, in a political climate where attending a protest can get you flung into jail for the same period you’d get if you’d rioted, why not have a fucking riot?

With Newcastle city centre wrapped in a blanket of portentous fog and the first frosty bite of a winter that will doubtlessly see the disastrous decisions of the Conservative Party consign millions to a freezing, uncertain fate, Mark wasted no time setting out his stall for any blue-rosetted flag-shaggers in our midst. 

After a warm welcome to the trade unionists, socialists, anarcho-syndicalists and other resoundingly right-on comrades, Mark told any Tories in the room to get out. “You’re the ones who declared a culture war,” he announced, “and this is our culture. Now, fuck off.”

With the room cleared, a relentless two hours of intoxicating realpolitik spewed forth from the seasoned (35 years and counting) comic, fusing pop journalism, satire, sing-songs and even a Les Dawson impersonation into a heady show.

Anchored in a love of classic comedy and music hall, Black And White saw Mark brutally taking down racists, fascists and FIFA, meandering effortlessly into sumptuously detailed tales of trucks faced down on Edinburgh picket lines and his boisterous, grippingly terrifying mother’s toenails. 

A remarkable tale of Boris Johnson appearing at Heaven’s pearly gates, rendered with a plush romanticism that would make Philipp Otto Runge blush, was a mid-show highlight. While Newcastle was seemingly the only city on his tour where he couldn’t get a singalong going – resulting in the excruciating spectacle of a poor woman in the front row being eviscerated by Mark after she claimed to have a song ready and couldn’t produce the goods – nothing threw Mark off his stride. 

After the show, I caught up with Mark, reminding him of all those years ago when he signed my book as “not Barack Obama.” He shook my hand in recognition and, since he’d sold out of books during the interval, I promised I’d sort him out next time. Mark Thomas is a nice guy. But don’t push him.

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