“The difference between middle class parents and working class parents is that middle class parents want what they have for their children and working class parents want their children to do better than them – to look down on them. In that regard, my father was a success.” explains Mark Thomas, for whom matters of class and politics are never far away. It is a stern photo of his opera loving father though, a self employed builder who “swore like a jazz bebop musician” and lost his first fight at the age of 50, who stares down over proceedings this evening.
Thomas, known for his confrontational, left-wing stand up, reveals a tender side in this well-scripted piece of theatre. As well as using his father’s formidable image, Thomas cleverly plays recordings of family members to help tell the story of his (often troubled) upbringing. He paints a moving portrait of his childhood and early experiences as a drama student, raised by “the rudest man in South London – therefore the
world”. Although the tale is peppered with cracking jokes – many aimed mischievously at the typically well-to-do Traverse audience – it is the honesty and poignancy of Thomas’s performance as he describes his father’s losing battle with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy that is most striking.
His father’s love of opera (which apparently he sang with gusto, but with “all the precision of the carpet bombing of Cambodia”) is a theme that plays throughout, and is crucial to the emotional final story that will leave you in awe of both a remarkable human being and Thomas’s superb performance alike.