Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy review: Mark Thomas: Trespass – Work In Progress, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Paul Whitelaw
Do you know why the anti-capitalist Occupy protesters chose to camp in front of St Paul’s Cathedral in 2011? Legally, it’s the only free space in the City of London. Every other space is bought and owned.
That’s just one of several teeth-grinding facts in the latest egalitarian show from inveterate comedy activist Mark Thomas.
But it’s key to the thrust of this typically life-affirming hour, in which he kicks – or rather, walks – against the increasing stranglehold of the super-rich on our cities.
His tight through-line is three supposedly free and pleasurable walks, two in his beloved home city of London, the third in Oxford. But they could be in any British city: the restrictions he’s mocking are growing nationwide.
The journey begins at the new US Embassy in London, currently under construction, which is surrounded by a moat to discourage doorstep protest.
Naturally, Thomas decides to strike early by encouraging friends and fans to picket the site with banners likely to be applicable for the next 30 years.
On a lower, yet somehow more dangerous level, he discovers “No Loitering” signs on a footpath close to gated communities. This triggers a communal protest of such escalating absurdity and charm, it truly makes you proud to be British.
Likewise, his protest against Oxford’s Draconian eight-mile perimeter – inside of which you’re likely to be fined £100 for begging – is, by his own admission, the uplifting apotheosis of his decades-long dream of satirising insane bureaucracy through disarmingly peaceful irreverence: community art in glorious excelsis.
It’s all too easy to categorise the lovably haranguing Thomas as an activist with a sense of humour, but Trespass proves first and foremost that he’s a consummate comic and crackerjack storyteller with heroically undimmed principles.
Summerhall (Venue 26), until 30 August, 5pm / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 15 August 2015
Edinburgh Festivals 2015: complete coverage
• Get everything on our Festivals homepage – on desktop, mobile or tablet
• Looking for reviews? Check out the latest Scotsman reviews – or browse all the reviews ranked by star rating
• Watch all the latest videos from the #WOWwagon
• Get distracted by our Festival Blog
• Check out today’s half-price ticket deals
• Follow our social accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – and join the conversation with #WOWfest