The warm up act for Mark Thomas’ new show, Trespass, is Mark Thomas: it’s cheaper and you don’t even have to be that good, he tells us, assuring us that the second half is much better. So, before the performance proper, we’re let into three, well actually four, of Mark’s secrets. Ooh, this one’s a biggie – our anarchist friend voted in the Labour election, “Who the fuck do you think I voted for? Did you come to the wrong show?” Explaining that ‘extremist’ Corbyn is actually a moderate, someone who you might have gone on a picket with, Thomas questions why nationalising the railways (or any other number of public services for that matter) should be perceived as anything but standard, why they shouldn’t belong to us as a collective, seeing as we’re the ones who use and pay for them.
And this premise sits nicely with the second part of tonight’s performance at Tobacco Factory Theatre, an attack on Big Money, whether they be governments or corporations. A call to activism, Trespass is the story of how Mark has blended his love of performance art (another of his very recently shared secrets) with standing up (or sitting down) for our right to exist in public spaces and to enjoy our own cities, which we should be able to roam freely, with impunity. This is particularly true of London, where, increasingly, properties are owned by the oligarchs, who are buying them up for investment, leaving the rest of us to migrate to more affordable areas. And as if that weren’t painful enough, they’re utilising building styles that infringe upon our rights of way, our ability to simply walk past them. How can it be that 70% of of new builds in the City of London are purchased by oversees absentee landlords, who are ‘not coming over here and buying our houses’. What the actual Fuck?
Yeah, sorry for the language but if you’d been to see Thomas’ energetic stomp around this auditorium, you’d be angry too. But you’d also be smiling. Because this man has the ability to make you feel like a mate who understands, finally, that we truly are all in this together. He invites us to picket the still-being-built US Embassy in Nine Elms, London, carrying signs that will be relevant for the next 30 years. Because we’ll be unable to do so when it’s finished, let’s plan for future grievances, take photos of our placards and email them to the US Embassy – maybe “IMPEACH PRESIDENT TRUMP?”
Taking umbrage with a ‘No Loitering’ sign on the banks of the Thames, Thomas has been rallying passers by to defy such nonsense and loiter happily with him, offering them cake, which always works. In Oxford, he’s been drawing a chalk line around an 8-mile exclusion zone. Who’s excluded? Oh, any number of non-desirables, including buskers who don’t smile. Or why don’t we all come down to Paternoster Square, a collection of streets bang next to St Paul’s Cathedral, owned by the Mitsubishi Company? Mr Thomas has been banned from there for walking – let’s go and confuse Security by pretending to be him. We just want access! Pacing along the edge of a triangle outside a Royal Bank of Scotland building, a company-declared exclusion zone to all us oiks, he pushes the point – why can’t we walk here – what should be private and what is public? Eh, eh, RBS?
Mark Thomas is a fine raconteur, a likeable activist and a bang-on-the-money comedian, offering wit and humanity in a world that really can seem a little mad. I know whose side I’m on.
Get yer boots, I feel a walk coming on.
Trespass shows at Tobacco Factory Theatre until Saturday 12th September