Mark Thomas – Rambling Man
<strong>Mark Thomas</strong> tells us about his experiences in the West Bank
Comedian and activist Mark Thomas has been famed over the years for his politically-motivated stunts, including posing as an arms dealer, creating a 'People’s Manifesto' based on audience suggestions and being awarded the Guinness World Record for Most Protests Held in One Day. But even he has had to draw the line on occasion. "I wanted to get a pedalo and ride it into Guantanamo Bay," he says, laughing. "That one I was advised against; by the Cuban Ambassador, actually."
Having missed out on the opportunity to spend the rest of his in life chained to a wall in an orange jumpsuit, he will instead be returning to the MGICF with a new show. So what's Mark got in store for us this time? "It’s a musical romp. Rambling the Wall – The Musical. A show-stopping number involving lame hotpants and high-kicking rambling boots."
Before you fully digest that image, we should tell you Mark made that bit up. "Actually, me and a cameraman set out to walk the length of the barrier on the West Bank. The show is the story of what happened. People ask, 'What was your intention?' I say, 'To get to the end. That's what you do on a ramble.' I went because I didn't know enough about the situation and wanted to find out about it in an unconventional fashion."
Some things he discovered were certainly unconventional: "There is this really insane love of Saddam Hussein in some places on the West Bank. You see statues and posters of him because he was seen as a hero; someone who stood up to Israel and the West and helped Palestinians. I’d constantly get into arguments with people. We got into a cab one day and Yunes, our translator –who was a very funny man – said: 'You must not say anything bad about Saddam Hussein.' So I started saying, 'Yeah, he helped the Palestinians, yeah, he fought the Israelis, but...' And he stopped me and said, 'No, that’s the name of our driver.' And this guy turns round and says: 'Hello, I am Saddam Hussein.'"
Brushes with dead despots aside, the trip certainly had its share of ups and downs, although there was one 'up' Mark would have rather avoided... "I put on weight! I walked fucking hundreds of miles and put on fucking weight! That's down to Palestinian hospitality. It was just constant – wherever you walk, people stop you and bring you food. They want you to have coffee; they want you to stay for lunch and for tea. Seriously though, it was lovely. They are unbelievably generous."
Mark's two festival dates are expected to sell out well in advance. So who would he recommend to those not quick enough to get tickets? "People should go and see Josie Long, she’s genuinely fantastic. And Kevin Eldon is a fucking class act, he’s really great."
Mark Thomas: Extreme Rambling (Walking the Wall), Citizen’s Theatre 4 & 5 Apr, 8pm, £15(£10)