Showtime from the Frontline

Feb 15 2018 | By More

★★★★★     Popular and political

Traverse: Wed 14 – Sat 17 Feb 2018
Review by Liam Rees

What happens when a comedian runs a comedy club in one of the most violently repressed areas of the world? Showtime from the Frontline sounds like it should be a recipe for disaster.

Yet Mark Thomas‘s latest production proves to be one of the wittiest and most heartfelt shows to tour to the Traverse. Proudly wearing its political colours on its sleeve it feels like a direct descendant to the popular and political theatre of Joan Littlewood.

Mark Thomas on stage in Show Time from the Front Line. Pic Steve Ullathorne

Mark Thomas. Pic Steve Ullathorne

Thomas is the consummate compere, warming up his audience with tales of his exploits and encounters at the Jenin Freedom Theatre whilst also making sure to mockingly dispel their Western, sometimes patronising preconceptions – (don’t be surprised that there are iPhones in Palestine!).

In what is a small but significant gesture from Thomas and director Joe Douglas, they recognise their inherent privilege in the making of the show and so make sure to give Faisal Abualheja and Alaa Shehada, from the Jenin Freedom Theatre, the prime slots at the top of the bill.

Additionally they make sure that the show is empowering to the other workshop participants who couldn’t come to to UK, like Abualheja and Shehada, by showing clips of their unique sets and characters, many of whom have never performed before. All of them are brilliant challenges to the misconception that comedy doesn’t translate.

ramshackle comedy workshop

As Thomas works through his ramshackle comedy workshop, he also gives a lesson in the fundamentals of comedy and deconstructs it in front of us. The magic of Thomas, Abualheja and Shehada’s comedic talents is such that even though you know what their techniques are, they’re still funny and that just allows you to appreciate their skill even more.

Alaa Shehada, Faisal Abualheja and Mark Thomas on stage in Show Time from the Front Line. Pic Steve Ullathorne

Alaa Shehada, Faisal Abualheja and Mark Thomas. Pic Steve Ullathorne

This deconstruction even extends to the discussion of the making of the show. The video clips of the cast in Palestine, at once bringing to mind the media’s power to manipulate us, forcing us to look at the bigger picture and have a good laugh as well.

As with reviewing a stand-up set, it’s nigh on impossible to go into more detail without merely repeating the jokes however Showtime from the Frontline is a genuinely vital piece of theatre that doesn’t aim to answer if theatre or comedy can change the world but proves that it can certainly seriously annoy those in power.

Running time 2 hours 10 minutes (one interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Wednesday 14 – Saturday 18 February 2018
Daily at 7.30 pm; Sat matinee: 2.30pm.
Information and tickets:

Mark Thomas website:
Twitter: @markthomasinfo

Showtime from the Frontline on tour:
Wed 14 – Sat 17 Feb Edinburgh
The Traverse Theatre
0131 228 1404 Book online
Wed 21 Feb Cardiff
Sherman Theatre
029 2064 6900 Book online
Thurs 22 Feb Swansea
Volcano Theatre
01792 464790 Book online
Fri 23 Feb Summertown Oxford
North Walls Arts
01865 319450 Book online
Mon 26/Tue 27 Feb Nottingham
Lakeside Arts Centre
0115 846 7777 Book online
Wed 28 Feb – Sat 3 Mar Birmingham
0121 446 3232 Book online
Tue 6 Mar Belfast
Belfast MAC
028 9023 5053 Book online
Thurs 8 – Sat 10 Mar Liverpool
Playhouse Theatre
0151 709 4776 Book online
Tue 13/Weds 14 Mar Salford
The Lowry
0843 208 6000 Book online
Thurs 15 – Sat 17 Mar Leeds
West Yorkshire Playhouse
0113 213 7700 Book online
Wed 21 – Sat 24 Mar Glasgow
The Tron
0141 552 4267 Book online
Wed 28 Mar Lancaster
The Dukes
01524 598500 Book online
Thurs 29/Fri 30 Mar Sheffield
Sheffield University Drama Studio
0114 222 8777 Book online
Sat 31 Mar Durham
The Gala Theatre
03000 266 600 Book online
Thurs 5 April Canterbury
The Gulbenkian,
01227 769075 Book online
Fri 6 April Milton Keynes
The Stables
01908 280800 Book online
Sat 7 April Cambridge
The Junction
01223 511 511 Book online
Tue 10 – Sat 21 April London
Theatre Royal Stratford East
020 8534 0310 Book online


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