Mark Thomas: 50 Things About Us
- Jay Richardson
- 13 February 2020
This article is from 2020
Agent of comedic agitprop tries to accentuate the positive about being English today
Repeatedly wondering 'how the fuck did we get here?' during 50 Things About Us, Mark Thomas' usual dominant stage command is affected, ever so slightly, by the foggy Brexit bewilderment that affects us all. Uncertainty about the consequences of Britain's departure from Europe is doubtless at least partially behind his atypical lack of focus and the urgent sense of enquiry that propels this state of the nation review. And that nation is England.
Thomas knows his Scottish references, and his topical adlibs about disgraced MSP Derek Mackay are numerically exceeded only by cracks about Prince Andrew. There are also some substantial reminisces about Northern Ireland (set up as an enigmatic 'other' to England in John Bull bloke's narrow sphere of comprehension, yet really an excuse for some amusing tales of Thomas' early days performing in Belfast), but this is fundamentally a show about the darker side of English jingoism, imperialism and 'two world wars and one world cup' mythology.
Lamenting 'the section of the English working class that like being bossed by toffs', Thomas is predictably scathing about Boris Johnson, caricaturing the most ardent Brexiteers in the Conservative Party with physical flourishes and Hogarthian relish. But for all his impish mischief and animated oratory, he offers more than angry agitprop, sharing the reasons why he was a reluctant Remainer and striving, when recalling an exasperated, middle-class heckle, to find the positive in being English.
Yet it's Perfidious Albion that really gets him hot under the collar, inspiring an excoriating, sustained attack on the ethics of the British Museum. As per, Thomas has backed up his satire with actual mischief-making activism. And he entertainingly closes this show with a preview of his next one, highlighting the historical injustices the UK has perpetrated on the Chagos Islanders. A little scattergun, a lot seething, 50 Things About Us is a reliably and furiously funny show from the veteran rabble-rouser.
Mark Thomas: 50 Things About Us is on tour until Fri 1 May. Seen at Tron Theatre, Glasgow.