Arts Reviews

Mark Thomas: The Red Shed @ Lakeside Arts Centre

Who would have thought that a play about a 50 year old Labour club in Wakefield would be so captivating?! Mark Thomas’ play is emotional and hilarious yet ultimately it is political. His stirring performance and script transport, not only himself, but the audience to the Red Shed in Wakefield, Yorkshire, which he calls ‘an improbable survivor’.

Thomas takes us on his own journey of how he first became truly politicised, beginning with a striking memory from the miners’ strike of 1985. He recalls the memory of himself and a group of miners walking back after a strike, and a group of children came out to sing in solidarity with the miners. The play centres around his fixation to truly find out whether this actually happened, or whether it was all a mere figment of his imagination. This is combined alongside another minor plot to union-ise the fast food outlets in Wakefield, with these two plots combining to reflect how protection for workers is just as relevant today.

“Thomas encourages his audience to sing, chant and cheer”

The audience are just as much a part of the play as Thomas is himself. Thomas encourages his audience to sing, chant and cheer. This fully immerses the audience even more so into the world of the Red Shed. In making the audience participate, whether it was Thomas’ aim or not, it bonds the audience together in the struggle against social injustices. In including the audience as much as possible, Thomas adds a refreshing feel to the play.

“Thomas thus shows his anger about the poverty in areas of the country that have not been made better”

The play is full of ups and downs which always keep the audience fixated on Thomas’s solo performance. However, his ending is completely unexpected when out of nowhere, the talking stops and Thomas sings a song of solidarity. This ending contrasted wildly with his previous few lines, which discuss angrily a woman’s utter fear of losing her local pound shop, thus shedding a light on the problem of poverty in this country. Thomas thus shows his anger about the poverty in areas of the country that have not been made better. This anger is then contrasted with his heartfelt singing with which the audience gradually join in.

“Mark Thomas has an ability to bring politics back to earth”

To conclude, the play is a must see, especially if you are interested in politics. It is more than just a play, it has elements of stand up and political activism all rolled into one so masterfully. Mark Thomas has an ability to bring politics back to earth.


Chelle Williams

Image courtesy of Mark Thomas.

For more information on Mark Thomas, visit his website.

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