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Mark Thomas: Extreme rambling
Mark Thomas's comedy is always original and his latest show is no exception. This time he recounts his experience of walking the length of the Israeli wall that imprisons the Palestinians of the West Bank.
With a large, helpful map of the West Bank behind him, Thomas gives his usual energetic performance, which is both hilarious and raucous. But this is contrasted with moments of deafening silence as the audience emotionally responds to his description of the appalling conditions and oppression ordinary Palestinians endure.
These include children who are regularly stoned by Zionist settlers as they try to walk to school; children who have to walk through a tunnel that doubles as a sewer under the R443 - a dual carriageway for Israeli use only, even though it cuts through the West Bank.
Then there's the Palestinian workers who start queuing at 2.30am in all weathers at an army check point, manned by Israeli conscript kids, which doesn't open until 6am, just so they can start work in Israel on the day shift.
Mixed with these terrible tales of suffering Thomas is able to extract humour, often produced by the absurdity of the situation. He describes a Palestinian crane operator who drops his bucket on the Palestinian side of the wall, workers jump in and are lifted over the wall and deposited on the Israeli side so they can go and find work.
Or the estate agent who believes that the Israeli state can legitimately extend its borders to just south of Baghdad, as it is justified by the scriptures! Mark points out that this is the last thing the poor residents of Baghdad need, considering their recent history!
But he does leave us with a feeling of hope. He relates the story of an imprisoned Palestine Liberation Organisation bomber who found mutual respect for his Israeli guard over a cup of coffee. This was no ordinary occurrence - guards and prisoners do not fraternise in Israeli prisons and to share a cup of coffee would be seen as capitulation by both the Palestinian prisoners and the Israeli jailers.
But they met when they could and talked. This respect was repeated when rumours went through the prison that an Israeli guard was showing the visiting families respect. Nationality and religion were not important - these were working people, simply protecting their families, who found that they had much in common.
This is a show worth seeing as it is brings into stark relief the oppression of the Palestinians and the measures used to subjugate them. You will be moved.
Rob and Mel Bishop
In The Socialist 16 February 2011:
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