theatre review: cuckooed (tRAVERSE THEATRE)

Mark Thomas
Mark Thomas

He may have made his name with agitprop comedy but ‘Cuckooed’ sees Mark Thomas deliver on his promise as a theatre maker.

The one man show is a true (or almost true) account of how a protest group Thomas was involved in was infiltrated by a mole.

While his standup roots are evident in the way the tale is delivered, this is a far more theatrical affair than his previous monologue ‘Bravo Figaro’ two years ago.

A clever set sees screens slide out from filing cabinets, allowing Thomas to interview fellow activists about Martin - the titular cuckoo in their midst.

There’s anecdotes aplenty about the daring feats executed by the array of Campaign Against Arms Trade characters, along with amusing accounts of direct action anybody aware of Thomas’s previous work will be familiar with.

Arms dealers are duped with dummy courtesy buses and warlords tricked into admitting their crimes against humanist by bogus media relations gurus.

But the laughs are incidental to the story of betrayal, as a man considered a part of the activists’ extended family is found to be working for the enemy.

At the heart of the hour is Thomas’s refusal to think the worst of a friend, even when the facts seem to allow no room for doubt.

When he eventually has to accept the sheer weight of evidence mounting up against Martin the jokes disappear to be replaced by sadness and anger.

He then pulls back his satirical lens to reveal the extent to which protest groups have been infiltrated by those in positions of power.

The swift move from personal recollection to general invective swiftly draws the audience into the subject, making the anger infectious.

By the end of the searing performance it’s difficult to know who to trust, as the state is found to be complicit in a host of similar betrayals.