Mark Thomas undertook a quite fascinating adventure to the heart of the holy land and a great deal of its problems when he decided to ramble along the Israeli separation barrier/wall/fence depending on who you side with. After his stroll he pitched up back in the UK to tell us all about it and luckily enough made a stop at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Thomas begins and ends the show by explaining his reasons for choosing such an ambitious project, at first more jovial and humorous but eventually going on to address the criticism that he didn’t meet enough regular Palestinians and Israelis and that he only met the “crazy” ones with close ties to the wall. The purpose, Thomas explains, was to get to the centre of the ridiculous nature of the wall and the equally ridiculous circumstances it creates.
The show is an emotional two and half hours, in which Thomas pulls us directly into a world so foreign to those of us living comfortably in the West. Stories are recounted featuring encounters both entertaining and surreal, off the wall ideas, people who have to wake up at 1:30 am for work and children getting stoned (not as in getting high, as in grown adults physically throwing rocks at them). Thomas is always warm and has incredible stage presence (his background as a drama student really shines through).
I was lucky enough to meet him when he was signing copies of his new book based on the ramble at Word Power Books in Edinburgh, where he was generous with his time and gave some great insight into the conflict. Throughout these two encounters I learned a lot and laughed a lot and, most importantly, felt that I can understand the brutality of the conflict and the role the barrier plays in that. In closing, this may or may not be the best stand up show I’ve ever seen, but it’s sure as hell the most important.
Article by Graham Morrison