The Linc’s Bethany Lee had a chat with comedian, presenter and journalist Mark Thomas ahead of his show ‘Check-up: Our NHS at 70’ at the Lincoln Drill Hall on April 3.
Mark Thomas has been performing comedy for over 30 years and has won 5 awards for performance work and 3 for human rights work. He has written 5 books and is also known for his political activism.
His show, ‘Check-up: Our NHS at 70’ is being performed at over 30 venues in the UK and looks at our National Health Service.
Could you tell us a little bit about your upcoming show and how it came about?
The show came about as the NHS is turning 70 years old and that is something you need to celebrate because some people think that it has just been there. We’ve always had it, but there was a time when we didn’t have it. The consequence was that people made decisions about their health on the basis of money. That is a really important thing to remember. When the NHS was created it was made to be in, the words of founder Aneurin Bevan, ‘in place of fear’ and you wouldn’t think about the NHS like that today, because it is always there for everyone.
The NHS is part of our cultural identity and that was shown particularly in the 2012 Olympics, when Danny Boyle put it centre stage. We all need and are here because of the NHS. It is an amazing thing and I wanted to look at it and look at where are we, the future and what is becoming of it. All of us have got experiences and opinions about the NHS.
Is this the first time you have visited Lincoln Drill Hall?
No, I have been many times before. I always remember this venue because, I think it was about 2008 or 2009 when I was doing a show called, The Manifesto. In this show we asked people for their policies to change the world and we wrote down and read them out, and then voted and chose a policy for each show, and then we tried to make it happen.
When I came up to Lincoln, one of the policies that had just come through involved members of parliament who had excessive payments of expenses. Somebody told me about Douglas Hogg, a Lincolnshire-based politician who claimed £2000 worth of expenses to clean his moat. So, me and my mate broke into his grounds and swam in the moat. I didn’t realise how badly I would stink for the next four days, so I did the gig at Drill Hall stinking of moat water! Yes, I do remember this venue.
You have been performing comedy for over 30 years, which would you say has been your favourite show?
The thing about performing is that you always want to work on whatever you’re working on. You’re thinking about that and your next project. I always focus on my current project and that is the way a lot of performers work. You’re only as good as your last show. There’s lots of my shows that I can sit down and think, ‘I like that one’ and all of them have worth. People pay to come and see a show, say £15 a just a ticket and then all the extra expenses on top of that, so you have to take your work seriously. It’s outrageous not to.
You aren’t afraid to add humour into topical issues such as the NHS and the conflict of Palestine (Mark’s last show, Showtime from the Frontline, was with two Palestinian comics recalling their experiences) do you think it is important to cover these topics?
It’s just what I do. Life is like that. There isn’t a rule which states that if it’s a silly subject you have to smile and if it’s a serious one you have to frown. Life is vastly complex, and our reactions are different all the time. What I do is a mixture of stand-up, repertoire and story-telling.
I make shows that are just a bit weird and different to everyone else’s and that’s completely fine. If people come along expecting a stand-up show they’re going to be disappointed. The show talks about life and death, the NHS as a structure and what the government are doing. I love that people who work at the NHS and health journalists say to me that in 75 minutes, I have accurately depicted how the NHS works and have reflected what is going on. That they can say, ‘Mark, that sums my life up’. That is remarkable for me and is what I aim to do.
Tickets for the show in Lincoln are still available, the price is £17 a ticket for full price and £12 for NHS workers and under 26-year-olds. They can be bought on the Drill Hall website.Tweet