Francesca Martinez and Mark Thomas really ought to consider forming a double act, on the strength of their appearance at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
Possibly one of the most delightful of this year’s offerings, it gave both comedians the opportunity to catch up, allowing the audience to eavesdrop on their observations.
Best known as one of the most politically active comedians in these islands, Thomas was sometimes overtaken in his radicalism by Martinez’ sharp and wry comments on how people react to the ‘differently abled’ when they encounter those ‘different’ to themselves.
In her book ‘What the **** is Normal?’ Martinez questions social attitudes and society with profound precision, although her conversation with Mark Thomas contained a fair amount of contributions laced with ‘adult content’ vocabulary from both participants.
Swearing is something Martinez finds liberating, and like other ‘no go’ areas, treats this one with an affection bordering on contempt.
‘What the **** is Normal?’ however, is also a family memoir suffused with a genuine sense of love, especially for her parents.
Born with cerebral palsy (Martinez prefers the term 'wobbly), Martinez’ father wrote a film script for her when she was 17, which went on to win an award and enabled her to embark on her professional career. Known to some for her early appearances in the TV series ‘Grange Hill’, Martinez is now a stand-up comedian and disability rights campaigner.
Which, of course, is sort of the Mark Thomas connection, and brings us back to the relaxed, witty and amiable exchange between them, which sometimes also included the person signing for the show (you had to be there).
Although perhaps not the event to take your Aunt Matilda to, unless she was very broad-minded, for this reviewer it will remain one of the highlights of this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival.
Francesca Martinez, 'What the **** is Normal', Virgin £12.99