Comedian, presenter, political satirist, journalist, radio personality, libertarian anarchist... There aren’t many things that Mark Thomas can’t turn his hand to. With his brand new history-themed show, 50 Things About Us, heading to Lakeside Arts for back-to-back shows in April, we caught up with the stand up legend to get his thoughts on Nottingham, touring and the British Empire...
The 50 Things About Us tour is jam-packed, and you’ve been on the road sixteen days now...
You’re right. I think it ends up being about 58 gigs or something stupid like that.
Are you physically prepared for 58 gigs?
I hope so! There’s a certain amount of looking after yourself that goes on during these things. I've done it long enough now to know what I need to do and I can recommend fresh fruit and porridge as part of the way of surviving the tour.
What would you say to someone clueless about the 50 Things About Us tour?
I'd say come along, it's a good old laugh. There’s stand-up, a bit of storytelling, communal singing and mucking about with a few quiz questions. It’s a sort-of quiz meets the History Channel with lots of swearing.
How has the material been received so far?
No-one’s booed me off. There's only been three pitchforks and one flaming torch so far, so not too bad. At the end of the tour, I’ll have been chased through a village by a mob.
It’s a sort-of quiz meets the History Channel with lots of swearing.
You're coming to Nottingham Lakeside Arts this April, how’d you like the place?
Lakeside's a great place. The art gallery is really exciting and the exhibitions are great. Nottingham really punches above its weight. Nottingham Playhouse is really well run too. I always think, just go and see stuff. Give stuff a go. But if you don't use these venues, they will go.
What have been the highlights of your research for this recent material?
Probably the Charter of the Forest. England has the world's only economic charter, we have a charter that was written that gives us access to the commons, to share things that are commonly owned. We have a right to do so just by being born: to live, trade, work, survive, to sustain ourselves in these common lands. It's this thing that links us emotionally and historically through to nationalised railways.
In the show, you delve into various bits of history. What would you say is the proudest and also the most embarrassing moment in British history?
I love local history, and stuff about working-class people. For me, the proudest things are fighting for the right to vote – I think that's a really amazing thing – and the creation of the NHS. It's 71 years old now.
It's about how we see ourselves, how we see our history and how we see our part in it. For me, the Empire is a dreadful thing. We should look at that and own up to the fact that actually we weren't this great group of people who gave the world cricket, democracy and railway lines. Actually, we exploited their countries, we committed horrendous acts, we had huge implications, negative implications for those communities.
How do you feel about the current political climate?
Well, I'm not a fan. It's a really bizarre time. It’s a climate in which we've seen an increase in racist attacks and racist harassment. We've got to find a way to get rid of the Etonians. Quite how we do it, I'm not sure, but I'll give it my best go.
Mark Thomas’ 50 Things About Us tour comes to Nottingham Lakeside Arts Thursday 16 - Friday 17 April, 7.30pm. Tickets are £18.50
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