Pros: MARK THOMAS!
Cons: Nothing to declare.
For those of you who don’t know Mr Thomas: he is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) assets of this country. Forget about real ale and Wham! Mark Thomas is the one. He’s been a comedian and political satirist (among many other things, including the Guinness World Record holder for holding 20 protests in 24 hours) for more than 30 years, always offering a critical and hilarious (yes, with him that’s possible) insight of current affairs and politics from a progressive point of view. And no, in case you were thinking it, I don’t work for him.
In Showtime from the Frontline, Thomas and his two Palestinian co-artists tell us in the most amusing way about a series of comedy workshops that the British performer organised in Jenin’s refugee camp. Through anecdotes and a dose of political context, they recount their battle in multiple fronts: from the Israeli occupation and checkpoints to the corruption of the Palestinian Authority and social conservatism of Jenin. If you are a bit lost on Israel-Palestine, fear not as Thomas gives a 101 explanation of some basic background without taking any prior knowledge for granted. By the end of the show, you’ll leave the theatre with the impression that you have just spent the evening with three of your closest (and funniest) friends.
Thomas’s comedy workshops took place in the Freedom Theatre of Jenin. Now a cultural Mecca for any political activist, since it opened its doors in 2006 it has been a hub for cultural resistance in the West Bank. Anyone who visits it invariably comes across the figure of Juliano Mer-Khamis. An Israeli citizen of Jewish and Palestinian Arab descent, Mer-Khamis was one of the founders of the theatre. He was shot dead by a masked gunman just outside its doors in 2011 and to this day his murderer is still unknown. In Showtime from the Frontline we are presented with footage from Arna’s Children, a documentary directed by Mer-Khamis about a children’s theatre group established after the first Intifada by his mother, Arna. Like Mer-Khamis did, Thomas and his friends stress the importance of subversion and resistance through artistic expression and the importance of achieving not just national freedom, but also individual freedom.
Thomas could have easily done the show on his own. I don’t think the demand would have been lower and he would have sold out anyway – his fan club and audience are pretty well established. He could have made this show all about himself (he insists he hasn’t) and his ‘adventures’ in Palestine. Despite this he invited Faisal and Alaa to come to London: their invaluable contribution not only demonstrates to us that comedy under a military occupation is possible, it’s also an effective (albeit dangerous) way of resistance.
Author: Mark Thomas, Faisal Abu Alhayjaa and Alaa Shehada (with additional material from Raneen Odeh, Osama Al-Azzeh, Motaz Malhees and Saja Mary)
Director: Joe Douglas
Producer: Mike McCarthy and Warren Lakin
Box Office: 020 8534 0310
Booking Link: http://www.stratfordeast.com/whats-on/all-shows/mark-thomas-showtime-from-the-frontline
Booking Until: 21st April