Thom Pain (based on nothing) written by Will Eno is currently been produced by the Sydney Independent Theatre at the Old Fitzroy Theatre.
Before I begin I have to say that I have been blown away by the quality of theatre Sydney Independent Theatre has been producing or been associated with this year. Thom Pain (based on nothing) is a remarkable work and I am not surprised it was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
It is very hard to say what it is about, because as the title suggests it based on nothing! It is a one man show, with little set, so you could be forgiven if you are thinking that this is could be a pretentious load of twaddle, particularly considering the title. But it isn't. It is more like a comical portrayal of human nature.
Thom Pain stands on stage and tells two stories, one about a boy another about a former girlfriend (who has everything including flees which he gave her). He tells the stories as random thoughts almost as if he talking his thoughts out loud. This makes the play seem a cross between stand up comedy and improvisation. I did ask Julie Baz the director if the play allowed for some impro because Thom asks the audience lots of questions which could have evoked a variety of responses. Apparently it does, it would be up to the skill of the actor to respond and then get the performance back on track. The audience would never know whether the actor is on track because it flits about and on occasion retraces the last few lines as if he has forgotten his train of thought. There are some profound statements to make you think. At one point he asks if you had a day to live what would you do? If you knew you had 40 years to live what would you do? Another is later in the piece when he talks about the brain. The brain makes sure that your body functions correctly but your mind could do anything. He also says that the cancers are all growing nicely and that Mother Nature will always have the last laugh. So, there are some deeper more depressing moments during the show.
Because it is rather random this means that every now and again Thom behaves or says things that you are not expecting. There is swearing every now and then. I wondered whether it was necessary, my answer is yes, absolutely. It adds to the spontaneity of the play. There was one moment in particular that shocked the audience so much gasps could be heard echoing round the theatre and you can't quite believe he just said what he did.
The second half really screws with your mind, you feel like you are almost making sense of it all but instead of talking in the third person Thom suddenly recaps the boy story in the first person, at this point you have to wonder to his sanity. This is soon forgotten though as he reverts back to the third person, but from that point on you do keep wondering who Thom really is and is the little boy him.
Even though this play is just one actor it is so complexly written you could easily watch it a few times.
David Jeffrey plays Thom Pain and his performance is flawless. So, if you fancy seeing a very funny, different piece of Theatre look no further and head to the Old Fitzroy. Click here for more information and booking.