Tuesday 16th October

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MARK THOMAS 3 - Please credit Lesley Martin

Mark Thomas: “Stop seeing refugees as victims. They’re humans showing remarkable courage and imagination.”

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

When picturing the West Bank, many think of people blighted by shortages, air raid sirens and fear – the result of decades of fighting and Israeli occupation.  Accordingly, most attempts to improve the lives of over half a million refugees sandwiched between Israel and Jordan focus on better access to food, water and jobs.  

But Mark Thomas – the leading campaigning comedian – saw people needing creative outlets and, vitally, laughter.  He set up a series of comedy courses in the Jenin Refugee Camp – among the most radicalised and allegedly responsible for 28 suicide bombings during the Second Intifada – with the aim of putting on shows for locals to enjoy.  

This week and next, Thomas tells the story of this incredible initiative in Showtime From The Frontline at Theatre Royal Stratford East, alongside Faisal Abu Alhayjaa and Alaa Shehada – two talented Palestinian performers who graduated from the course.

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Category: Comedy

What’s On London Comedy Awards 2017

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Now the New Year bells have finished chiming, it’s time to announce our Comedy Awards for the year just gone and news of where you can catch these fantastic acts in the months ahead.

There’s no shortage of talent around, so whittling down the vast forest of performers to a handful for each category has been tricky and some excellent comics have had to be overlooked.  On the plus side, that competition for bums on seats is driving artists onto new heights, constantly pushing boundaries of subject matter, delivery style and occasionally taste.

This is superb news for Londoners because, despite underlying political and economic uncertainty, its comedy scene is thriving.  While leading lights like Soho Theatre, Leicester Square Theatre and The Comedy Store will always drawn top acts and expectant audiences, it’s been fantastic to see less established venues such as 2Northdown and The Bill Murray host some of the biggest names in comedy this year, while monthly events like Suspiciously Cheap Comedy, Knock2bag and Rye Laughs regularly put on the best mixed bills in the country.

So take our advice and fill your 2018 with grins, chuckles and snorts by heading along to those venues or catching our top picks in stand-up, character, storytelling, musical, sketch and improvised comedy for 2017.

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Category: Comedy
Mark Thomas 1 - PLEASE CREDIT Jane Hobson

Mark Thomas: “I’m obsessed with how you break out of that individualistic stand-up model and involve people.”

Mark Thomas has returned to London with A Show That Gambles on the Future, exploring people’s hopes and fears for the coming years.  The show, which varies dramatically from night to night, is an interesting departure from his recent scripted performances but has injected Thomas with enthusiasm for unpredictability.  Ahead of the run at Leicester Square Theatre until 28th October, he spoke to Ian Cater about stand-up comedy’s limitations, getting laughed at Up North and the price of Freddo Frog chocolate bars. 

If we learnt anything from last year, it’s that making predictions is a mug’s game.  Unless you get them right of course, which – despite the off-target examples of Michael Fish, Kaiser Chiefs and Dick Advocaat – people do manage from time to time.  And that’s what Mark Thomas is asking his audiences to attempt in A Show That Gambles on the Future.

Each night, Thomas asks attendees to write down some forecasts, the best of which he riffs on at length and opens up to general discussion.  At the end of the show, the audience gets to choose which prediction Thomas should bet on at the bookies, with all winnings going to charity.

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Category: Comedy
London

What’s On, London? 16th – 18th June 2017

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

It’s been another tragic week for London with the full consequences of the Grenfell Tower fire still emerging.  One thing’s clear: never again can people be exposed to such danger.  Londoners must do all we can to ensure our politicians act quickly to help those affected and prevent any repeat.  The only silver lining to this awful cloud has been the response: money donated, items provided and fundraising efforts set in motion.  So while again we have no choice but to try to carry on with our lives, making the most of the positive things happening in our city (listed below), we include a special section highlighting the events coming up to raise funds for the victims and their families.

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Category: Clubs
MARK THOMAS 1 - Please credit Tracey Moberley

Mark Thomas: “You’re constantly climbing a ladder, but the last rung you always pull away from yourself”

Rating:

Mark Thomas is performing his latest highly-acclaimed show – The Red Shed – at Battersea Arts Centre until Saturday night.  It is an incredible piece of work, perfectly blending comedy, theatre and journalism while provoking laughter, emotion and thought.  Ahead of his return to London, Ian Cater caught up with Thomas to discuss audience participation, lost sheep and David Walliams.

London audiences have four more chances to experience The Red Shed – a homage to the Wakefield Labour Club where Mark Thomas first ‘found his politics’ and became involved in the 1984 Miners’ Strike.  And, no matter what your political persuasion, I can hardly recommend this amazing production enough.

It’s neither pure comedy, nor pure theatre.  Instead, The Red Shed is a masterful lesson in storytelling – an art in which Thomas undoubtedly specialises.

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Category: Comedy
© Tracey Moberley
© Tracey Moberley

Mark Thomas: The Red Shed review

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

The Red Shed is an intense and moving masterpiece, representing the very best of Mark Thomas’ talents as a comedian, actor and journalist.

Mark Thomas begins by recounting an interview he gave to NME in 1989.  He rattled through his answers, before being asked: “Where do you get your politics from?”  Thomas knew it stemmed from his time at ‘The Red Shed’, a Labour Club in Wakefield, where he became involved in the 1984 Miners’ Strike.  Before realising, Thomas had delivered a rant to the unsuspecting reviewer – which he repeats now – about a march he joined through the heart of a pit village and past a school playground where children ran forward crying to sing “Solidarity Forever” at their fathers and sons, supporting them in their fight against injustice.  Then Thomas goes silent, sweating and teary.  Finally, he injects some levity: “I’ve told that story so many times, that I’ve no idea whether it’s even true.”

During the rest of the performance, Thomas reports on his quest to test his memory was true: to track down that village and those children “without sounding like a paedophile”.

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Category: Comedy
Mark Thomas 1

Mark Thomas: ‘Trespass’ at The Tricycle, 25th April – 7th May

By Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Next week, Mark Thomas begins a two-week residency at Kilburn’s The Tricycle in the latest leg of his Trespass tour.  If you think age might have mellowed one of the bête noirs of the 1990s, guess again: Thomas is as frustrated as ever with what’s being allowed to happen to his country – this time its public spaces.

And frustration brings the best out of him, propelling him into another mish-mash of storytelling, stand-up, activism and journalism that makes his act truly unique.  As long as the world is an imperfect place, you sense that Mark Thomas will stick around to point it out.  But, to be safe, head to see a master at work while you can.

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Category: Comedy