Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Mark Thomas - The Red Shed.

Mark Thomas - The Red Shed. Tron Theatre, Glasgow. October 2106. Review

A stage show about a Labour Club in Yorkshire? Strange as it may seem Mark Thomas's skill as a story-teller and performer makes this unlikely topic an enjoyable and moving tribute to neglected working class history.

Mark Thomas outside The Red Shed in Wakefield
Photo by Tracey Moberly from Mark Thomas website
The Red Shed is a 47 foot long red wooden shed in Wakefield, a working people's club which celebrated it's 50th anniversary earlier this year. Mark Thomas first went there as a drama student from a Yorkshire college and has returned many times since. When planning a celebration of the club's 50th anniversary Mark had recalled how he credited his activism with the 1980s miners' strike with his political awakening. In interviews he has recounted joining a miners' march back to work, with local school children singing to them as they headed down the street. Is this just a story that he has made real by repetition or, as nobody else can recall it is he mis-remembering it, making it true by repetition?

Before the performance Mark approached several members of the audience, looking for volunteers to join him on stage. I declined I'm afraid, and you can make your own allegory there about people either choosing to become actively involved in political action or preferring to be supportive, inactive voyeurs in our civic age. He introduces us to many of the stalwarts who have helped run the place, and the campaigns organised from there. The six audience volunteers hold up masks to act as the participants in this story.

In investigating the veracity of his early memory, we explore the untold histories of working people. I found this a meaty, moving and angry piece of theatre. He is an engaging raconteur. If you are going to put yourself forward as one of his volunteers on the night I would suggest a wee visit to the bathroom before you start, as certainly one of the players on stage on our night appeared to have maybe overdone it a bit at the bar before getting up there.

One reason that I write this blog, particularly the sections on local Glasgow history, is because there are huge swathes of information and stories out there that we poorly recall. There are stories that my granny used to tell me about, stories of immigrants arriving in our city, periods of unemployment and struggle, things worthy of celebrating, remembering and learning from. If we don't get to remember the past we will go along allowing the same mistakes to be made. History isn't created by the actions of kings and queens, but by ordinary men and women.

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