Cuckooed (4 stars)

This article is from 2014


A personal tale of spying from comedian Mark Thomas, performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

A Perrier Award nominee in 1992 – the year that Steve Coogan won it – Mark Thomas’ comedy has always been inseparable from his activism. And since his multiple award-winning Bravo Figaro – an emotional show about his father’s love of opera, and his first play at the Traverse – his theatre’s gone the political route too. Last year’s 100 Acts of Minor Dissent was about, well, exactly that. And this year’s offering, directed by Emma Callander, has that trademark Thomas blend of raw humour, emotion and ultimately a strong call to address injustice.

Cuckooed, he tells us, is based on the absolutely true story of his friend and fellow activist, Martin, who turned out to be a spy for BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest arms manufacturer – though Martin has, to date, never admitted this.

Thomas relates the saga in typically entertaining style, using his natural comedic talents to draw the audience deeper into his tale – though it feels like everyone here is on his side already. His re-enactments of his arms trade protests with Martin are exhilarating, making the betrayal that’s to come even more poignant. But it’s not just Thomas’ story; his monologue is broken up with clips of video interviews from friends in the activist community who were also close to Martin, each of whom has their own contribution to the tale.

It’s a stirring show, aided by a witty set design. Thomas’ performance is impassioned but not railing and his dedication to activism against the arms trade really shines through amidst his personal hurt. The strongest moment comes at the end when Thomas widens his net to show just how much spying has affected the lives of Britain’s activists – and asks how long we can let it continue.

Traverse, 228 1404, until Aug 24 (not 11, 18), various times, £19 (£14).


  • 4 stars

Lakin McCarthy in association with Traverse Theatre Company A comedy of betrayal. Mark Thomas tells his true story of how Britain's biggest arms manufacturer (BAE Systems) came to spy on a comedian. A tale of hubris, planes, demos and undercover deceit told by an award-winning performer. Contains strong language Age…