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Mark Thomas: The Red Shed review at the Traverse, Edinburgh – ‘big-hearted storytelling’

Mark Thomas in The Red Shed. Photo: Jane Hobson
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Mark Thomas returns to his full-on socialist roots in this wide-eyed tale that has truth at its heart and the need to find the stories which will help shape a better future in its head.

The story in this case happened at the end of the miners’ strike and concerns an image from the final march back of the miners to their pit: a memory of children singing to their fathers and brothers from a school yard. It’s a story of hope that might be true or a wishful thought transformed through time.

This tale is tied to Thomas’ celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Red Shed, a tiny Wakefield Labour club where he cut his comedy and political teeth. With willing volunteers picked from his audience, he cuts through a cleverly constructed history of the shed and those who have lived by it, taking in the strike and using recordings of his friends and political allies in Wakefield.

While Thomas will have anyone of a left-leaning political bent on their feet, he has the bottle to challenge preconceptions of class and where bigotry lies. And while he does, his inclusive style of storytelling – at once intimate, self-deprecating and rambunctious – carries him along. It is not just what he says, but how he says it that counts.

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Mark Thomas' big-hearted storytelling celebrates the community and spirit of his political home