A political comedy about creating political comedy
Emma Smith, PhD in Deep Ocean Ecosystems
Part stand-up, part play, Mark Thomas’ latest show combines storytelling and political satire with an inside view on life in the Jenin Refugee Camp, West Bank. The Jenin Refugee Camp, founded in 1953 for displaced Palestinians, is currently home to 14,000 residents and the Jenin Freedom Theatre: the main setting for this true, comedy tale.
The Theatres aim to “develop a vibrant and creative artistic community that empowers children and young adults to express themselves freely and equally though art” is as poignant as the assassination of its founder, Juliano Mer-Kamis, outside the theatre in 2011. The seriousness and political pressure that constantly simmers and boils in Jenin and all along the West Bank may cause comedy to seem out of place here, however it is this very juxtaposition that allows Mark and his comedy colleagues to tell the tale of the stand-up stars of the Jenin Freedom Theatre.
A solo comedian of 33 years, Mark for the first time in his career shares the stage with Alaa and Faisal, two Freedom Theatre students who take part in Marks ambitious comedy workshops. Their journey into comedy is told alongside their fellow students using a variety of hats and scarves, and clowning.
Hilarious, smart, and moving, the show builds upon Mark’s long standing work of bringing serious political issues to the screen and stage. In creating a platform by which we can laugh at oppressive government regimes, we are able to at least temporarily alleviate some of the power they hold. This show goes that one-step further in allowing young Palestinians to take that power for themselves, to laugh at fear and to resist its pressure.
The question of whether laughter disperses fear or simply masks it is left unanswered and for you to ponder for yourself, but the point is made that no government likes to be laughed at as laughter can not be controlled. This gives comedy a unique ability to unite people. It finds the common joys and fears of people, allowing them to be given space, a space where people can truly connect, and make sweet Maqluba, right through the curfew.
You still have two days left to see this play, so make sure you take the advantage to see a truly special and important show for just £5 as an LJMU student.