Mark Thomas reckons he looks like he's just bagged a rambler in his promo image for Extreme Rambling - Walking the Wall, his one-man show about walking the Palestine border wall: a ramble, as he points out, requiring more than a bobble hat and boots - like an inside contact at UN. For over two hours Mark paces the stage in front of a map of the West Bank, recounting through facts and dramatic sketches the story of this epic journey with energy and passion that never flags. It's an amazing performance - a wildly funny show about shocking realities, deeply felt and inspirationally well-crafted.
Mark calls his trip a mixture of devilment, curiosity and rambling, though he's been warned to claim officially he's writing about birds and wild flowers. It's a journey full of learning. Like, although the border is 315 kilometers, the wall is more than twice as long, deviating wildly in order to include the illegal Israeli settlements. Like, the cruel absurdities of this route include a football pitch split in half, villagers separated from their shops, and children walking to school through a tunnel they share with sewerage when it rains.
There's much to grieve and rage over in his tale but it never becomes a lecture or a rant, as Mark peoples the stage with other characters too: his supporters, opposers, and random companions. We meet juggling Israeli anarchists who quote Monty Python, Palestinians queuing through the night at the border crossing, conscript soldiers, an orthodox Jew estate agent, the dapper Consulate General and the colonel who designed the wall - 'a man who doesn’t let the facts impinge on his life.' We recognise the voices of his hippy cameraman, his exasperated fuck-up sorter Nava, and Mark's inner Hugh Grant.
And the wall's final obscenity is to end at Beityatir, incomplete despite '723 kilometers of national self-delusion'. Mark's journey ends as it began, with an Israeli soldier shouting out a challenge. This time, fired by fury that 'this land so obsessed with identity robs everyone of his own', he yells back a summary of his experiences, concluding with lung-breaking belligerence ‘and I’m writing about birds and wild flowers.’ Brilliant entertainment with lasting impact.
Big contrast at the finale of the Bath Literature festival: Griff Rhys Jones discoursing on his trips to mountains and rivers, which turned out to be mainly a smugly superficial ramble through the peaks and streams of his ego. Thank Groupon for Royal Fizz champagne cocktails at The Lounge.
Saturday was World Book Night, with bedtime stories for children and free books for all at Frome Library. Over a dozen Fromies applied successfully to be donors, which means a total of more than 600 books supplied by the scheme. The big handout was followed by Books Please! - a chance for bibliophiles to share their most-loved reads. My own special favourite was Robyn still in her Where The Wild Things Are costume reading Kubla Khan.
And finally: Only 4 days now till Four in a Bed opens Upstairs at the Lamb. Rosie and I took Alison in to admire the framed poster in the downstairs bar...