Reviewer: Hannah Hiett
Mark Thomas is a long-term political activist and comedian. It is easy to imagine how the earnestness that is bread and butter to the one might dampen the performance of the other. After all, the corruption, war profiteering and general evilness of the arms trade outlined by Mark Thomas is really no laughing matter. But actually, the funny is a bonus, and it’s not in the content of his stories so much but in the energy with which they’re delivered.
Watching Thomas (or Tommo, as he’s known in activist circles) recount tale after awesome tale of taking down The Man one crooked arms dealer at a time feels a bit like watching a kids adventure film as the renegade gang of loveable oddballs beat down the bullies, tie up all the loose ends at a hysterical pace and save the day. It’s like watching a superhero who has finally lost his temper… enough is enough henchmen, get outta my way.
Mark Thomas is a bit of a hero, and his stories are all true. As a performer, he is incredibly engaging, always in motion, always loud except in moments of sadness that are a bit hard to sync into before he’s off again, Mark Thomas fizzes with a sense of righteous indignation that is intelligent, well-researched and lived.
The first half of Cuckooed isn’t Cuckooed, which was a bit confusing… Thomas provided his own warm-up act with a personal tale of a tenacity which almost (but not quite) bore relevance to the themes of Cuckooed. It was a good yarn, but it felt like filler, something to stretch an hour’s performance into two. The first half also introduced the uninitiated (this reviewer included) to a previous project of Thomas’ – 100 acts of Minor Dissent – via a whistle stop tour of the best bits (one example was a group of ‘women-friends’ driving remote-controlled Barbie cars outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy.)
The second half of Cuckooed, which is the piece proper, is interesting viewing… a mixture of video interviews with old friends and co-activists, anecdotes and highly poetic descriptive moments create a slightly muddled but still moving picture of corporate and state surveillance in tandem with a tale of personal betrayal committed by one of Mark Thomas’ best friends and activist allies. It is hard to say which is the bigger catastrophe for Thomas, the macrocosm or the microcosm. The personal and the political blur and, perhaps intentionally, the failure of our government and police systems to protect our civil liberties begins to take on the sharp edge of a personal injustice under Thomas’ glaring interrogation lamp.
Reviewed on 25th February 2015