Mark Thomas came to perform at Norwich Playhouse this week for his new show A Show That Gambles On The Future. I saw him several years ago, and I remember laughing out loud right from the very start. This time was no different.
The show had an audience participation theme; the audience were asked to respond to a couple of questions on paper in the foyer before the show. I immediately felt I was connected with what I was about to experience and intrigued about how my ideas were going to be involved.
The questions asked us to make predictions about the future, which could range from political to the ridiculous. Mark went through the responses choosing his favourites and engaged amusingly with those that had submitted them. Not surprisingly many of the responses were politically-based, including assassination and world domination, with Boris, Theresa and Donald getting their share of speculation and ridicule.
The responses formed the main body of the show, and plenty of heckling was encouraged and responded to. This culminated in an audience choice of favourite, based on our cheering. I found this a novel and unique way of involving and uniting us as an audience, inviting each to speculate and decide on the ideas presented. He interspersed the whole process with stories of previous outlandish bets he has tried to place. We were asked at the end to donate a quid which Mark would use to place a bet on the most popular prediction, with the outcome to be published on his website.
Mark’s often blunt yet intelligent delivery – with a liberal sprinkling of expletives – takes the audience on a journey of his thinking, which whilst being amusingly crude, makes a lot of sense. Mark expresses his views and insights with passion, getting across his message, whilst making his audience see the funny side. He somehow manages to combine being rude and polite, mocking yet respectful.
He is also not afraid of any topic, or of offending people. He doesn’t seem to set out to be offensive or to shock – a tactic many comedians rely on – he simply shares his way of seeing things with no holds barred. His ease with communicating directly with members of the audience gave me a sense of being valued and involved in the experience, while his honest take on some tricky topics gave me a sense of relief, laughing with the rest of the audience about things that we are not supposed to mention, yet all feel.
He has an ability to immediately engage his audience, and get them on his side, with his anecdotes pointing out the ridiculousness of many every day experiences. Having been a fan of his Channel 4 TV show “The Mark Thomas Comedy Product” with its hard-hitting political exposé, I was somewhat surprised to see a gentler side of the man, recounting stories of his childhood; he spent time growing up in East Anglia, and it was delightful hearing his amusing banter on Lowestoft and Norwich.
The energy he puts into his art is completely engaging. As long as you don’t mind a bit of swearing, I would thoroughly recommend this captivating entertainer.