Striding onto the stage accompanied by thunderous fanfare, taking his place on a podium and decrying the evil of tyrants and the chains of authority, Dominic Allen’s blistering and bombastic entrance as Thomas Paine in his one man show about the life of the free thinker and revolutionary scholar certainly grabs your attention and sets the tone for a gripping and completely enthralling hour of astounding storytelling and theatre. Telling the story of Tom Paine, from his humble beginnings as the son of a corset maker, to his exploits in revolutionary America and France and ultimate death, the show’s fast paced script is filled full of interesting historical details regarding the man’s life that instantly draw you in whilst firmly rooting you in the historical settings of the 18th century. Any exposition or facts needed to understand a particular situation are woven so naturally into the story that you barely notice them and the script at no point feels dry or overstuffed, indeed the hour flies by and the plight of a 18th century academic is made to feel as contemporary and relevant as any modern day struggle for freedom and democracy.
This show is highly recommended and not to missed by anyone with even the remotest interest in history, politics, satire or even just bloody good storytelling.
All of this would have been for nought if the script was not in the hands of a suitably talented performer and Dominic Allen is more than equipped to rise to the challenge, delivering an astonishingly energetic and uplifting performance. He perfectly embodies Paine at every stage of his life, from youthful vigour to elderly bitterness and regret, whilst simultaneously giving voice and distinct personalities to the other characters that populate his tale, from the preening George Washington to the scheming Robespierre. He completely holds you for the one hour runtime and I found myself forgetting to take notes as I was sucked into Allen’s incredible performance. Despite the risk of becoming too morbid or self-important Allen keeps Paine relatable, showing him warts and all and bringing out the humour within the tale that had the audience roaring with laughter and often applauding wildly.
Technically the show is no slouch either, the tech perfectly complementing the action on stage and helping set the scene, whilst the set and costume use little to contribute to a wonderful sense of place and time. All of this together creates an amazing mood and atmosphere that makes the audience feel like they are in the centre of a world wracked by revolution and change, taking us along on the path forged by Tom himself. Indeed leaving one feels empowered and emboldened, inspired to take on the problems of our times the same way this incredible man took on the problems of his.
This show is highly recommended and not to be missed by anyone with even the remotest interest in history, politics, satire or even just bloody good storytelling.