Review: Mark Thomas: Bravo Figaro!, Edinburgh 2012

mark thomas

This is a short review of Mark Thomas' inspirational show Bravo Figaro! which was first published in the Evening Standard when it premiered at the Edinburgh Festival last summer. You can read the original review here. Mark's father died recently on the day Bravo Figaro! was broadcast on Radio 4, "with impeccable timing," as Thomas said on his website. He is still performing the show occasionally at festivals as well as developing a new Manifesto show, looking for suggestions on ways how we can improve the UK. Free gloves for all in boxes on every street corner would be a start. He also headlines the Live at the Chapel show tonight (Saturday) in London supported by Tim Key, Will Franken and Cardinal Burns, with Alun Cochrane compering. Details for all Mark Thomas activity here, details for tonight's show here.

 

Some of the most interesting comedy in Edinburgh can be found where stand-up meets theatre. Daniel Kitson has pioneered this recent cross-pollination and now veteran agitator Mark Thomas muscles in with Bravo Figaro!, a funny, poignant show that beautifully blurs genre barriers.

The usually political Thomas is in personal mode here, exploring his turbulent relationship with his opera-loving father Colin, who is now frail and suffering from progressive supranuclear palsy. A huge photograph of Thomas Senior — “Moses with a hangover” — dominates the stage, echoing the way this violent, heavy drinking builder dominated his south London family.

A few props, most notably a Noah’s Ark carved by Colin for young Mark, add some evocative theatricality, as does the way the performer movingly chats to his father’s recorded voice.

But Thomas is a comedian at heart and there are plenty of laughs here too.

He skilfully paints witty verbal pictures as the tale builds to a touching partial rapprochement with his staging of a classical concert at his housebound parent’s home. And, inevitably, satire elbows its way in as Thomas skewers a less radical gagsmith. The firebrand funnyman was surprised to discover that he had inherited his father’s love of Rossini: “I play it while doing the VAT, because we are not all Jimmy Carr.”

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