Laughter Lines: Mark Thomas Discusses The Red Shed
Hot on the heels of his Trespass tour, comedy favourite, Mark Thomas has found the time to travel back and forth to his university town of Wakefield and to the place where it all began; the Red Shed, a labour club, home to Mark’s first public performances as well as the beginnings of his political awakening.
The Red Shed lends its name toMark's new tour. Mark will perform at Blackwood Miner’s Institute on November 29 and recently found time to tell Andy Howells about the show.
You have been busy with your Trespass tour and working on other projects, when did you find time to research and write The Red Shed?
I have been working on The Red Shed since last summer. This is the process: interview people connected to the shed, friends, comrades and assorted ne'er-do-wells. Hang out some more. Wonder if we ought to work. Panic. Work out the main story. Redo interviews. Organise days out hunting for old miners. Find some. More interviews. More panic. Do show.
Can you give us a bit of background information about The Red Shed?
The Red Shed a wooden single storey 47ft long socialist shed and Wakefield's Labour Club and it celebrates its 50th Anniversary this September. It is where I went as a young student activist, it became an incredibly important part of me, a place where politically I came of age during the miners’ strike and where I first performed in public. It is a place I have always gone back to and still have friends and comrades there. It is in many ways a talisman for me.
It sounds like you’ll be covering a lot of topics from pickets, placards to dinner ladies and crap beer, how do you go about putting a show like this together and knowing what to keep in or indeed to leave out?
For The Red Shed I interviewed friends and comrades, but also set myself a series of quests and tasks, one of which was to see if a memory of the miners strike was true. I remembered seeing children singing “Solidarity forever’ at the miners when they walked defeated through the streets back to work. I wanted to try and find the school and the children to see if that emery is true. So I went off with friends to search for the village and the school and the children and the show is me telling the story of that.
There will be a bit of political referencing going on within the show and naturally the world of politics has had a busy summer, did you find yourself having to rewrite elements of the show to keep it current?
The show is always written at the last minute so it is very up to date. Also I have never performed the same show twice. I always improvise and ad lib, so the show is naturally updated.
What's your favourite aspect about performing to a live audience?
All the shows are different because I get members of the audience to help me tell the story as well as the above answer. But what is really great about doing the show is that I love making people laugh, taking them on a journey and making them cry. I love making people laugh at things they did not think they would laugh at and creating a show that speaks to working class audiences.
What other projects are you currently working on?
There are a number of new projects all slightly mad and if one of them works it will be a miracle. As for what they are I rarely tell people in advance and, given that the shows are actually written at the last minute, it seems a hostage to fortune to actually say what the show is.
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