Boisterous and pumped, Mark Thomas regales his listeners with stories like a pub dweller boasting to his mates. Yes, this British comedian/activist’s tales can turn self-valorizing. And they aren’t really very funny: There’s the time he and his lefty comrades lured a busful of arms dealers to a protest. And the one about infiltrating a trade fair to halt illegal sales of torture equipment. But the main event — the narrative spine of Cuckooed, Thomas’s solo performance, now at 59E59 via Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre — centers on allegations that these corporations spied on him. Thomas explains how, a few years ago, a close friend in the anti-arms struggle turned out to be an informant working on behalf of the weapons conglomerates. Thomas’s personal devastation and anger fuels the monologue, which is intended to illuminate today’s covert surveillance tactics.
True story? We have to take it on faith. “I’m a good liar,” he tells us at the start, and although he has trotted out video interviews with fellow activists, we can’t know anything for certain in this murky milieu. Thomas, who says he’s currently involved in multiple lawsuits, seems aware of this peril and wisely acknowledges our doubts and spikes his hair-raising exposition with humor. At times he can’t seem to decide if Cuckooed is a piece about corporate spying or the arms trade itself — but that’s hardly a significant problem compared to the human rights issues he lays out so amicably. “I’m no hero,” the monologist asserts, but his account feels remarkably brave.
By Mark Thomas
59 East 59th Street