As if too tired to stand, Mark Thomas walks to the edge of the stage and sits. He is side on to the audience and a spot light casts a shadow down towards the edge of the stage. With a clarity that allows for no confusion he forces the words out…“My Dad was a cunt”.
There was no comic twist to these words, there was no smirk or smile. Just the word ‘cunt‘ to describe his own father.
I was sat at the Tricycle theatre watching Mark Thomas’ show ‘Bravo Figaro‘. The show is centred around Colin Alec Todd Thomas (Mark’s Dad), a working-class Tory and self-employed builder with an unexpected passion for Opera.
Throughout the show, Mark offers a potted history of his relationship with his father. To begin, he focuses on heart warming moments such as how his Dad would watch TV with his work trousers round his ankles to not get the sofa dirty.
Mark goes onto to describe the embarrassment of being a fifteen year old punk rocker and having his builder father blast opera out over the roof tops whilst attempting to sing along. The audience is taken along and titters their way through the show’s opening.
After a few seconds silence though, Mark makes his way to the edge of the stage and carefully lets the word cunt reverberate around the small theatre. He repeats it twice more to ensure no one can dismiss it is as a throw away comment.
He goes on to tell us that Colin was a man that was quick to resort to violence. He talks in detail about pub brawls. This leads him to talk, in much less detail, about domestic violence. With a couple of poignant, carefully chosen sentences, he leaves little doubt in the audiences mind. “We would have an annual family reunion at the A and E”. A half smile appears on Mark’s face before his eyes drop to the floor.
‘Bravo Figaro‘ offers an insight into the muddled life of a south London family. It illustrates how it is possible to unconditionally love a Dad who is bigoted, violent and in the words of Mark, ‘a cunt’. It shows the devastating effect that the cocktail of dementia and progressive supranuclear palsy (a degenerative and incurable condition) can have on a man and his family.
Mostly however, ‘Bravo Figaro‘ is the story of how Mark Thomas used opera to reach out to his father before he vanished permanently. One final gift.
I feel privileged to have witnessed a small snapshot of Mark’s relationship with his father. I left the theatre feeling moved by the show, but also unsure how comfortable Mark felt telling the story.