Mark Thomas: Bravo Figaro! (5 stars)

This article is from 2012

Mark Thomas

An operatic voyage around his father

The very least you would expect from a show about a son arranging for an opera to be performed in his dying father’s living room is to be moved. And in Bravo Figaro!, Mark Thomas achieves that on at least two occasions, but in surprising ways and at moments you least expect it. Sure, the finale pay-off is a shoo-in, but the passages where Thomas assures us, in no uncertain terms, that this show in defiantly not a love letter to his dad and the incident where Thomas has his own eureka moment when bathing his daughter are deeply powerful.

Colin Thomas is a contradictory figure. A religious man who ‘swore like a bebop artist’ and a working-class builder who adored Thatcher, his appreciation of opera also came from nowhere, but developed into a passion that consumed him, to the disgruntlement of the punters he started to mingle with at Glyndebourne and Covent Garden.

When Mark worked on his dad’s building sites during holidays, he got embarrassed by his father singing (and improvising) segments of Rossini or Verdi but took gleeful revenge by skipping enthusiastically off to drama school. When illness (progressive supranuclear palsy) begins to rob Thomas Snr of various strengths, he and his wife take the only remaining option left to them: they move to Bournemouth.

Like the accomplished stand-up he is, Thomas infuses his tale with constant laughs (the canal boat trip to Coventry being a highlight) and memorable details aplenty. The backdrop is an imposing photograph of Colin (known not to his face as ‘Moses with a hangover’), while the stage is scattered with boxes, classical music magazines and a toy boat from which Thomas’ brother delivers some salient recorded lines. The overall effect is the portrait of a family during its highs and lows, and a profound exploration of the often traumatic contradictions which make us all human.

Traverse Theatre, 228 1404, until 26 Aug (not 20), various times, £18–£20 (£13–£15).

Mark Thomas: Bravo Figaro!

  • 5 stars

Phil McIntyre Entertainment Ltd. How to put on an opera in a bungalow in Bournemouth. Mark Thomas tells us about his dad - a full-on rough, but hard-grafting working-class Methodist, Thatcherite builder from south London - and the difficult relationship he has with him. This has been a fertile ground for comics of late…