It takes a while to understand what Cuckooed, now on at 59E59, is about - exactly. Not that the show isn’t entertaining; Mark Thomas’ performance is wildly imaginative and energetic, and the show has surprising depth. It is just that it revels itself slowly and carefully.
Written and performed by Mark Thomas, Cuckooed takes the audience through a period in his life where he was protesting against the arms trade. He uses a series of funny anecdotes very deftly to pull the audience into his world. He expands the stage by the inclusion of other voices he worked with, introducing videos and interacting with them expertly. Slowly, however, Cuckooed morphs into something more than a string of stories and jokes.
Mr. Thomas traffics in a fierce honesty, but he doesn’t require the audience to get worked up over the arms trade. Instead, Mr. Thomas has a more universal message within Cuckooed. While discussing his time with Campaign Against Arms Trade, he introduces the idea of corporate spying by British firms. In particular, one great friend of his was accused of spying for BAE, a large British Arms producer. It is the loss of that friendship that strikes at Mr. Thomas' heart. To be betrayed by a friend is more than he can believe and, in fact, he spends a bit of time not believing it.
Cuckooed ends up being touching, not because of the horrible acts of corporate interests, but because of the singular act of betraying a trust. In his reaction to this very personal tragedy, Mark Thomas’ show expands to embrace human frailty and the little deceits we all have to contend with.
Cuckooed is well directed by Emma Callander, expanding a single person’s story into a more universal tale. Mr. Thomas’ accent was hard for some people to understand, particular when he grows more manic, but the effort is well worth it.
Cuckooed | Playwright: Mark Thomas | Director: Emma Callander | Cast: Mark Thomas | website