Anarchy in the Playhouse? Mark Thomas talks Trespass

Mark Thomas, Comedian
Mark Thomas, Comedian

Arranging a radical anti-establishment punk concert on the banks of the Foyle? Use the city centre as a playground? Own your city - demonstrate in it, dance in it, do something different in it?

Sound a bit ‘out there’? Not according to comedian, satirist and political activist Mark Thomas who is bringing his new show ‘Trespass’ to the Playhouse in Derry on March 24.

According to Mark, it’s a fight back against the privatisation of public spaces - a prolonged movement over the last 30 years by town planners and corporations towards the gentrification of society.

And he’s angry about it. “For the last 30 years the extreme right wing, the capitalists, have been encroaching increasingly on public spaces - in limiting where you are free to exercise your human rights.

“Everywhere has developed a sort of shopping mall mentality - where you are no longer able to be different, to dress different, to act different in public spaces.

“The areas in which we can exercise our human rights - be it the right to demonstrate or express ourselves - are being curbed constantly.

“People used to fear it was the far left who would make these changes - who would force us to dress the same, look the same, act the same - but if you look at high streets the length and breadth of the country you see them all looking the same - with branches of Boots and Specsavers and all the big names... and nothing changes.”

The ‘same-ness’ of our public spaces and a call to protect against the gentrification of our cities may not, at first glance, seem like great comedy fodder - but Mark Thomas is a comedian at the top of his game.

He premiered Trespass at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2015, garnering a host of five star reviews. He is a previous winner of the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award, the Sony Award for Radio Comedy and twice Scotsman Fringe First winner - he has hosted his own TV series on Channel 4, was part of the original and iconic Mary Whitehouse Experience radio cast and has appeared on numerous panel shows including Have I Got News for You.

Bringing Trespass to Derry is something he is very much looking forward to - as a frequent visitor to the city he describes Derry as “a very unique place”.

“I remember when I was first due to come to Derry - I was touring in Belfast and the crew asked where I was going next. I told them Derry and they were quick to tell I’d be mad to go there - that Derry was mad. But I have to say I love it in Derry - I find it utterly fascinating.

“What you find in Derry which you don’t always find is a very strong sense of identity, of community - of a shared experience and I find that really intriguing.”

Mark’s passion for his subject matter is obvious - his anti-establishment leanings are strong but his wit is undeniable. Trespass promises to combine theatrics, stand up, activism, a dash of journalism and a dollop of mayhem.

“What I want to do is challenge people to live - to experience life instead of just working to pay the mortgage, to do what’s expected.”

Mark Thomas is at the Playhouse on Thursday, March 24. Tickets from 02871268027.