XXY Reviews: Mark Thomas "Trespass"

XXY Reviews: Mark Thomas "Trespass"

When you think of political dissent, what do you think of? Protesters marching alongside rows on angsty police? Mass sit-ins during the US Civil rights era? Even something as mundane as a few people with placards? Well, for Mark Thomas the latter is a perfectly valid method of activism, and can be done with a verve which is anything but Mundane. Thomas’s current tour, Trespass, follows on from his anecdotal yet hilarious 100 acts of Minor dissent, with the first half of his show centered around the book. Thomas, an activist by day and comedian by night, is a Londoner in love with London and a man willing to exercise his rights in order to protect his vision of the city. This is exemplified from a multitude of curious acts, from getting himself banned from Tesco (without breaking the law) in order to protest supermarket destruction of community economies, to forming a Kazoo orchestra to protest street performance laws. Throughout his activity, Thomas carries the message that innovative and comical methods are plenty for any would-be dissenter. Dissent is given over by Thomas as a tool, one which can be used alongside citizens’ rights in order to influence not only the government, but increasingly powerful companies as well.

The show was not however entirely focused on London, with Thomas sharing anecdotes from his time in Oxford, spent on his hands and knees drawing a chalk line around an area which the council had proposed £100 on the spot fines for sleeping rough or begging. The proposed fines were subsequently scrapped after this act brought attention to them. The performance of this act brought questions of artistry in activism to light, and I believe provided the answers, too. If art can be used to elicit a reaction to the society someone lives in, then the performance of activism can surely be considered artistic.

The trespass section of the show, which focuses on reclaiming land for the people of London, sits at the heart of the act. Using his standard devious techniques, Mark Thomas has taken back areas of public land inside gated communities to throw comedy gigs and used public footpaths with ‘No Loitering’ signs to conduct fétes. The real feeling given out by these acts is somewhat melancholic, a celebration of the power of community in the face of a city becoming ever more gentrified and anonymous as the money continues to roll in. At its heart, this show is about keeping London a city for everyone and sticking a proverbial, and occasionally more than the likely literal middle finger up at the people and organisations trying to carve out communities to create space for absent foreign bankers and princes.

The show that Mark Thomas gives illustrates the power of acts that can be carried out both individually and as parts of greater collectives. This power is communicated by Thomas as a powerful and important way to try and keep the nation’s politicians and economic elites accountable, in order to enhance the quality of life that the rest of the population currently enjoy. Political rogue and cursive storyteller, Mark Thomas certainly knows how to encourage people to take the accountability of power into their own hands.


Written by Zac Harvey / @ZacFishFace

Political Contributor

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