I don’t know.
It’s a refrain that ripples through THOM PAIN (BASED ON NOTHING)
Like most of us, confronted with life at the best of times, we don’t know.
In the grip of a novel virus, perhaps we don’t know even more.
What I do know is Thom Pain is not based on Thomas Paine, the great American political activist, theorist and revolutionary.
Thom Pain is based on nothing. It’s in the title. In parentheses. And besides, Thomas Paine spelt his name with an “e”. Though it was silent.
There’s not much silent about Thom Pain. He’s garrulous, though partial to the pause. For effect.
And very affecting it is.
Thom Pain enters the black box of the space in suit and loosened tie. We can’t see him clearly, but we sense him in the dark. He tries to light a cigarette a couple of times without success. He can’t see the audience, but he senses it.
He calls for lights up, establishing the fact that this is a piece of theatre just as his fumbling attempts at lighting up establish an ineptitude in the character.
Pain is at pains to please, relaxing the audience with small talk, even comforting a latecomer breaking the so called “fourth wall”.
He asks if we like magic and then disses the topic. Like a magician, he misdirects a lot in his rolling monologue of fractured recollections, ruminations and regrets.
In keeping with the theatrical conceit, there’s an allusion to Poor Tom from King Lear, stuck out in the cold, adrift, everything good in his life, lost. It’s not the only Elizabethan nod and wink.” By thine own self be untrue” he declares.
He evokes Byron with reference to Childe Harold, and indeed, actor Toby Schmitz has a Byronic quality.
Thom Pain is about being alone in the presence of others, of speaking freely that, in a way, reflects the way we stop ourselves thinking and speaking freely. It creates a thrill of unpredictability.
In your mind you’re mad, but in conversation you have the chance of not being so. It is in this faux conversation with his audience that Thom becomes lucid and less mad.
Will Eno’s script is playful, poignant and funny and Toby Schmitz plays it a treat under the subtle guidance of co-director, Andrew Henry
Thom asks us what we would do if we knew we only had a short time to live – do something brave? One day to live? What about forty years? Well, Schmitz has I hope a long life to live, but in presenting this performance he has indeed done something brave and boldly succeeded.
The character continually praises the audience on being forgiving. With this play, this performance, this production, there is nothing to forgive. And nothing to forget
THOM PAIN (Based on Nothing) is streaming from the Old Fitzroy Theatre, every night till July 3 at 7.30pm and Saturday July 4 at 11.30am