Theatre: Mark Thomas: The Red Shed

Four stars

THE doors haven’t even closed yet and already Mark Thomas has got half of the audience singing and the other half creating the sound of a crowd chatting by “rhubarbing”.

That’s the puckish, down-to-earth charm of Thomas, veteran leftie comic and tireless campaigner. From halting arms deals to giving evidence to parliamentary committees, he’s that most notable kind of campaigner too: one who actually gets things done.

The Red Shed is the final part of Thomas’s theatrical triology which began with the Bravo Figaro – a tribute to opera and his father – and 2014’s Cuckooed. It tells the story of a labour club in Wakefield which hosted Thomas’s first live performances and was his spiritual home after the injustices and struggles he witnessed during the miners’ strike, during which The Shed fed the families of 150 mine workers.

With a script that does not drop one beat, it’s also about the search for truth, the power of storytelling and how the labour movement must not bask in its history but instead engage with the thousands of people marginalised by poverty pay, insecure work and no union or party representation.

There is no romanticising of the working class here. After the Brexit vote some were scared to admit that many from the traditional working class voted Leave. And, as in most sections of society, there are definitely working-class racists, he says.

The crucial point is that, in the case of nearby Scarborough, it was union people who convinced all the pubs to ban the EDL from having meetings on their premises.

Inclusive (though probably not if you think May and co are doing A Really Great Job), The Red Shed is fun, touching and genuine. There’s more here than fire-in-the-belly inspiration, however. Thomas is a man with policy ideas and the skills to carry them out.

Can we get his name on the Labour leadership ballot paper?

Until Aug 28 (not 15, 22), Traverse (V15), various times (80 mins), £15.50 (£8.50 registered unemployed). Tel: 0131 228 1404