From the first instant we see Thom Pain, we know this is going to be an extraordinary production. ‘See’ in the loosest sense since Thom begins to speak from a pitch-black stage as he, unconcerned, lights up a cigarette. Starting as it means to go on, the play refuses to lapse into predictability: those accustomed to bunkering down in the darkness of a theatre as they would in the cinema had better be ready for a surprise!
Thom’s relationship to the audience is that of the stand-up comedian; we act as stooge, sympathetic ear and active participant in his performance. Barefooted, tousle-haired and dressed in a rumpled black suit Thom is a tragicomic figure, as indeed, he would have us believe, are we all. His speech is riddled with verbal trickery: swoops into lyrical poetry are brought to earth by a swipe at sentimentality and high philosophy punctured by a crude joke. Within these seemingly scattered ramblings are ideas about love, loss of innocence and something approaching a story.
Ed Hancock’s Thom is inspired: a strangely endearing oddball who can switch from the deeply poignant to the lightly amusing with grace. In what Thom deems the ‘age of whatever’ this courageous production, which celebrates life at its most extraordinary, is all the more refreshing.