Mark Thomas tells tales of his father in Bravo Figaro

Published: 17 Feb 2013 09:300 comments

In a step away from his political stunts - driving Metropolitan police mad with multiple mischievous protests, walking the Israel-Palestine barrier, campaigning against Coca Cola - activist and comedian Mark Thomas has something different, and more personal, to share.

LISTEN UP: MARK THOMAS
PHOTO: IDIL SUKAN DRAW HQ

Bravo Figaro! is the tale of Mark's dad, a working class builder with a passion for opera, their sometimes difficult relationship, and how the older man's love for music became a vital link between father and son when he was taken ill with the degenerative disease, progressive supranuclear palsy.

As Mark explained, the one-man spoken word show - a moving, poignant, unexpectedly funny account, told in Mark's warm, captivating style and supplemented by music and recordings of family interviews - came about through a series of coincidences. It all started with a demo recording for Radio Four's Inheritance Tracks slot, and ended in a very intimate musical performance, and Mark debuting his show at the Royal Opera House.

"For Inheritance Tracks, I told the story about my dad, the working class builder who listened to opera and played it on the building site and how his singing embarassed me," explained Mark. "And then how, when he got ill, that image of him singing on the building site became a wonderful image. I cherished that image that symbolised his idiosyncratic nature - a man who should not have had access to that kind of music but had no fear of that.

"I thought [the show at the Royal Opera House] was going to be a one off and then I did it and I thought, wow, I want to do it again. So I wrote this and got it really, really good and then the whole thing changed from how it had started. It's all been an accident... a rather lovely accident." He added that the move to examining a more personal area of his life was partly down to age: "I guess part of me was ready to go: I want to have a look at this thing. I like to think that one of the nice things over the years is that the things I have done have changed.

"It's gone from stand-up to political stand-up and other challenging stuff, and then to these adventures when I go off and end up holding the world record for the largest number of demonstrations... and I like to think all of the shows have changed.

"In many ways it's about me finding things out and coming back and telling the story. Whether it is the right to protest, walking the length of the wall in the West Bank, or about my dad. It's about digging out that relationship."

Mark Thomas: Bravo Figaro! is at Norden Farm, Maidenhead, on Thursday, February 21. Tickets cost £12.50 from nordenfarm.org or call 01628 788997.

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