Early in his Fringe show Mark Thomas reveals the impressively religious character of his upbringing. The discovery that the comic's family tree is littered with preachers and clergy cannot help but elicit an ‘Oh really? Ah that makes sense’ response. It's only natural that one of UK comedy's most celebrated contrarians should have a background steeped in one of society's biggest establishments. Learning more about this background is an insightful and entertaining element of Thomas' excellent and frequently powerful performance.
Thomas proves to be an energetic and compelling raconteur weaving narratives which take the audience along with him
Naturally, as a good non-Christian, Thomas likes a flutter and this year he is enlisting the help of his audiences to predict and gamble on forthcoming events. The comedian collects suggestions on what may happen in coming years from audience members, sharing them with the wider group before asking that they be voted on and winners be picked. Given recent events in the world it makes for a strong conceptual core for a show.
Let's face it, we've had a couple of tumultuous and often wildly unpredictable years. Things that we never dreamed were possible back in the good old days of 2014 have come to pass and in all honesty a lot of those things have been awful. Certainly events from the recent past weigh heavy on the suggestions of the audience. Trump, Brexit, Scottish Independence, the long term prospects of Theresa May and the current UK government... they all afford Thomas the opportunity to cover important contemporary topics with his trademark zeal.
It is during these more impassioned sections that the revelation Thomas' background was spent around religious preachers becomes enlightening. Like an early R&B singer adopting and adapting the sound of gospel music, so Thomas takes the cadences of a pulpit firebrand and turns them towards secular subjects as he rails against moneyed interests controlling our railways and the DUP. Although the humour of the show gives way to Politics, the socialist sermons make for affecting passages.
Elsewhere Thomas dedicates a lot of time to stories about his upbringing and in particular his father whose rare mix of religious devotion and fiery temperament is another telling influence on the comic. Throughout these tales Thomas proves to be an energetic and compelling raconteur weaving narratives which take the audience along with him, offering insights into the unorthodox upbringing of a man who retains a smouldering anger at injustice.
By the end of the consistently engaging if not hilarious show the audience has voted and some decidedly left-field predictions have garnered the support of the crowd. Perhaps in an unexpected twist of geopolitical fate Britain will use Brexit as a stepping stone to joining the Indian Empire or perhaps, like a few other times in the last couple of years, democracy hasn't exactly got it right. Either way, you can't argue with the audience's decision to come along to see Mark Thomas.