Mark Thomas brought his hugely successful ‘Showtime from the Frontline’ to the Liverpool Playhouse. This narrative tells us how Mark spent three years trying to set up a series of comedy workshops within the West Bank area of Jenin, at a theatre called the Jenin Freedom Theatre within a refugee camp. The end result of which saw the students performing their individual routines.
On stage to help set the scene are two of his comedy students Faisal Abu Alhayjaa and Alaa Shehada. The shows starts with a description of where Jenin is in relation to Israel and Palestine and just how difficult this was going to be given the political unrest and and how comedy pokes fun at people in power and that is something is not particularly appreciated by the West Bank politicians.
Mark goes on to describe how they were going to turn these 10 students into stand-up comedians, and they started with lists! List of small things that annoyed them, lists of feelings, lists of big things that annoyed them more, lists of activities, and how they would then combine one word from each list to build the content for their routine. Nothing was off limits.
Throughout the performance we are shown video clips of the other students as well as an interview with a young boy who wants to be the “Palestinian Romeo” and hopes to be famous one day. The stories, that range from dodging bullets to wanting to be arrested because the police was an attractive Israeli woman.. Not your usual content for funny subject matter, but it really does work well in this instance. We are told of how it is difficult for the women comedians because of the male beliefs towards women as well as the problems they encountered getting Faisal and Alaa back to the UK for this show.
All three come and go on stage, assuming different characters to help set the scene of what was happening within the workshops and at the end of the show we are treated to the two routines that Faisal and Alaa performed at that first workshop, which had an impressive 120 attend on the second night most of which were attended by women.
This is a very funny show at times but it also brings home, just what life is like in Jenin. There is a lot going on in this show and at times I got a little lost with what was happening, however despite that it is a great show and one that is definitely well worth seeing.