Mark Thomas: Bravo Figaro
While this is sold as a theatrical presentation, Mark Thomas : BRAVO FIGARO would better be described as an hour-long stand-up comedy with an autobiographical theme.
Overlooking the performer and audience is a burly, bearded man in a jacket and open-necked shirt who could easily be mistaken for an Irish international front row forward.
In fact, this is Colin Thomas, a builder who also happens to be Mark’s dad. Not only do we see the old man but hear him through the Hamish Pirie-directed performance, along with family members.
The first half consists of a semi-affectionate portrait of a tough South Londoner who was a left-leaning, church-going workaholic given to beating up his wife.
However, Colin also had a softer side, inexplicably loving opera and happily tripping off to Covent Garden or Glyndebourne to pursue his passion and laugh at the toffs.
Sadly, the elder Thomas fell prey to Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, an illness that slowly ate into his body and then mind.
The comedian had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time and commissioned a private ROH performance at his parents’ retirement home in Bournemouth. The ensuing recital happily leaves the show with an uplifting ending to what can seem rather an exploitative hour (assuming that the script is based on somewhat embroidered family history).
Mark Thomas fans and anyone who is a sucker for the timing and intonations of an intelligent stand-up will laugh their way through what should be a (and often is) a poignant tribute to a difficult tripartite relationship between father, son and operatic art.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher