Writer: Mark Thomas
Director: Joe Douglas
Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood
Mark Thomas’ fringe award-winning The Red Shed is currently touring around the UK, including a three-night stop at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. The Red Shed is celebrating the Labour Club’s 50th Anniversary and Thomas takes the opportunity to recreate the club’s history at its shed in Wakefield. The wooden red shed has played a political and socialist role since it opened and supports the Trades Union movement and communities in need. Thomas and his friend, Peter Hirst, first met when they were students at a local college and became political activists, especially during the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike. They have both performed in many spaces, raising money for good causes, and it is where Thomas did his first public gig.
“Ready to go with the interview”, Thomas shares with the audience the story of the club in a combination of stand-up comedy, theatre, journalism and political activism. He primarily focuses on political activities and stories during the Miners’ Strike and the current ongoing progress with the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union’s campaign to improve working in the Fast Food industry. Audience interaction is strongly encouraged with the opening of party poppers, cheering and singing. Members of the audience are invited to join Thomas to aid the stories with props and cut out faces of people from his political and performing journey.
There are some poignant, as well as entertaining moments, and Thomas is an excellent performer who engages well with the audience before stark reality is shared at the end. Thomas points out that the shed is a place in the community for remembering the good times, and particularly, the battles that were won. Members can reflect and rejoice in the past and hope for the future. The show concludes with the singing of club’s anthem and the eventual virtual reunion of the children who had sung Solidarity Forever to the miners, as they returned to the pits after their year-long strike.
The Red Shed is politically charged with strong language. Guaranteed, however, is an evening of theatrical and stand-up excellence with reflection, laughter, and maximum interaction.
Touring Nationwide | Image: Contributed