The Red Shed - Theatre ☆☆☆☆☆5
Showing from - Thursday, September 15, 2016 through till Friday, September 16, 2016
Everyman Theatre - Liverpool
Johanna Roberts | Friday, September 16, 2016
‘A good story well told’ – that’s all I ask from any book, play, opera, film, whatever. And that is what Mark Thomas, with his show to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the eponymous red shed, a socialist club in Wakefield, provides.
However, the shed – ever present on stage in the form of two red doors and ‘original chairs from the club… with genuine socialist arse sweat‘, is actually the launch pad for an evening of story-telling and story exploring.A story told with passion, humour and intelligence, with moments of fierce intensity Ostensibly, the story is of Mark’s decision to try and discover whether his memory of the miners’ march back to work after the strike collapses is an accurate representation of the truth. This is a story told with passion, humour, and intelligence, with moments of fierce intensity and emotion punctured with needle sharp wit of Thomas’ talent for observation and self deprecation (‘I was a drama student. I have a degree. I have a BA Honours in ME!’)
We are also introduced to a range of other characters who people this story, brought to life by Thomas’ vignette and by their voices as recorded on his Edirol 09 digital recorder, and represented on stage by members of the audience holding up masks of their faces.
But the evening is much more than that, and while it is the personal element that makes the show so engaging, it is the exploration on a deeper level that proves so fascinating. The audience is drawn in to consider social justice, friendship, making connections, the rights of workers in the fast food industry, the importance of communities and shared history, the North/South divide, ‘Wakefield’s Premier Marxist Leninist Pantomime Troupe’, and much more.
For at heart, this is an exploration of story-telling, of how we are all made up of stories, of how each story is coloured by an individual’s remembering of it, of how truth can be interpreted, of how stories develop, and of whether truth can be sidelined in order to make a story ‘better and therefore more “truthful”’. What holds it all together is Thomas, who, having previously been listed alongside Joe Brand and Eddie Izzard as a bright star in the comic firmament, feels he has ‘let the side down’, but not on this showing, he hasn’t. At a time when state schools are being urged to focus on ‘important’ subjects like maths and science, The Red Shed focuses on the importance of stories to keep communities alive and of everyone’s voice being heard. This is a remarkable story, beautifully told. Be part of it.
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