‘Brilliant challenges to misconception that comedy doesn’t translate’: SHOWTIME FROM THE FRONTLINE – Touring ★★★★★

In Comedy, Opinion, Plays, Regional theatre, Reviews, Scotland, Touring by Thom DibdinLeave a Comment

Touring – reviewed at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Guest reviewer: 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’ 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.

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 the 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.

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.

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.
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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.

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Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. He tweets from @AllEdinTheatre and, personally, from @ThomDibdin.
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Thom Dibdin on FacebookThom Dibdin on RssThom Dibdin on Twitter
Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. He tweets from @AllEdinTheatre and, personally, from @ThomDibdin.

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