Interview: Comedian Mark Thomas

By January 30, 2016

Comedy. Leeds.


Photograph credited to Steve Ullathorne

The South London comedian turned all-round public nuisance (in a good way) hits the road once more in 2016 with a lengthy list of dates throughout the UK showcasing his Fringe 2015 smash hit show ‘Trespass’. Mark’s gigs or more accurately “campaigns” combine a mixture of theatre, stand-up, activism and journalism and during this latest 3-month stint, Mark will be visiting the White Rose County on four occasions, firstly Halifax (22 Feb), followed by Leeds West Yorkshire Playhouse (23 Feb), Sheffield (15 March) and Wakefield (17 March).

Mark Thomas 1 (2)

Following on from Mr Thomas’s “Extreme Rambling” book and accompanying live performances documenting his adventures in the West Bank, the theme of his latest tour continues to focus on people’s freedoms to roam. ‘Trespass’ looks at our home-grown hard-fought rights in this area, established following the 1932 mass trespass at Kinder Scout, then applies them to our modern day city centres, aiming to raise awareness in a humorous way of the plight of our public urban areas, increasingly snapped up by private developers in the name of progress (not to mention profit).  One of the publicity photos for the tour tellingly features our hero sat in the recently redeveloped Paddington Basin next to the bronze statue of late London Deputy Mayor and senior planning adviser Sir Simon Milton (although IMO the statue also bears an uncanny resemblance to IDS) perhaps one of the targets of Mr Thomas’s ire.

Mark Thomas 3 please credit Vanessa Furey (2)

Photograph credited to Vanessa Furey

When asked about his inspiration behind ‘Trespass’, the supremely affable Mark explained at length, “The show’s about the fact that more and more land in cities is being bought up by corporations and rich entities, and how ordinary people are finding their rights, the land which they can gain access to, and what they can do on it, increasingly curtailed.  It’s also about how elected entities mimic corporate strategies, cleansing an area to make it happy for shopping or giving an estate over to some landlord who’ll do the place up and charge a fortune for yuppies to move in. What I’ve done is try to find cracks in the law and use them to have fun in public spaces in cities. We put on punk rock gigs on the Thames because when the tide goes out on the beach, no one’s sure who’s in charge of the beach. We’ve had comedy gigs on bits of the Thames footpath, we’ve organised fetes and all sorts [of other things] as a way of reclaiming the land and our right to have fun on it. I have a philosophy that you should always go wherever you think you’re able to go until you’re told you can’t… which I think is good. I’m naturally a trespasser, if you look at the ‘Walking the Wall’ show, that was all about using the length of the Israeli wall to walk along and treat it as a ramble.”

Mark Thomas poster image (2)

Mark describes his walk along the 400 mile Israeli West Bank Separation Barrier as “Intense”, adding, “It’s very beautiful place and the occupation is hugely sad. The hospitality was absolutely incredible. We used to build in an hour to our schedule every day for people who would stop us in the street offering us tea and coffee. We used to call it the Palestinian Roadblock because you’d be literally stopped by people offering their hospitality, which was rather lovely.”

So, expect a whole load of laughs with lots of exasperation thrown in for good measure as the master of Civil Disobedience visits these parts soon and sticks it to the man once more, be there or be square.