Interview: Mark Thomas brings 100 Acts of Minor Dissent to 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Political comedian returns to his roots with some mischievous acts of dissent
After putting on an opera in his dying father‘s house for last year’s show, Mark Thomas returns to his roots with some mischievous acts of dissent. We put some questions to him and he happily answers them
How do you top last year’s highly emotional show, Bravo Figaro?
By doing something different. Every show should be a labour of love, and you should always be creating something to be proud of. Whether it’s a show about walking the wall [on the West Bank] or the right to protest or the manifesto stuff, I’ve always been motivated, because they’re not easy shows to do. There is a certain amount of planning and jeopardy involved, and you can’t just go in and say, ‘Thank you very much for allowing me to witness your exploitation, I shall now go away and profit from it.’
100 Acts of Minor Dissent doesn’t sound very minor. Is it?
The project lasts a year, and will be finished on 13 May 2014. It’s really about the very nature of an intervention. Some of them will be huge; others will be small. I read the novel One Day and it angered me so much that I printed out the twist, put it in the book and left it on a bookshop shelf.
What are the larger interventions?
A lot of bankers are threatening to leave the country. Well, we are offering to drive them to the airport. We’re offering a service. There are some proposed changes to legal aid that will make ordinary people suffer. There was a woman recently who was prevented from filming the police when her boyfriend was being arrested and she took the police to court and got compensation. People like that would lose their right to challenge police misbehaviour.
So, you’re going around photographing the police?
One police officer every day, and it’s a pain in the arse. But every time you do it, you might be confronting someone who might take exception to that. There is a law under Section 58 of the Terror Act that says you can’t photograph a police officer if it is to be used as an act of terror.
Do you think our civil liberties are slowly being eroded bit by bit?
There should be an assumption that you can do things until you are stopped. There’s a story about Tony Benn walking through the Great Hall in Westminster with an electric drill and a plaque. There’s a cupboard there that the suffragettes hid in so that they could legally claim their address to be the Palace of Westminster, and Benn wanted to put this plaque up to commemorate the fact. When he was asked whether he had permission, he said, ‘Oh, I always find it better not to ask.’ I think that’s quite a good attitude to have.
Now that you’re playing in a comedy club rather than a theatre this year, what do you think of the current stand-up scene?
The comedy world is still this space of invention where people can get up and if you’re good you’ll get some stage time and earn some money. It’s also a world where huge amounts of money are chucked at stadium advertising because they haven’t quite filled it and they can’t have their act going out to perform to 5000 instead of 6000 people. I’ve heckled at the O2 but I’ve never played there. Comedy should really be about intimacy and connections.
Mark Thomas: 100 Acts of Minor Dissent, The Stand III & IV, 558 7272, 3–25 Aug (not 12), 7.30pm, £10.