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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Thom Pain (Based On Nothing)
The Print Room   Autumn 2012

When Will Eno's one-hour monologue premiered in Edinburgh and London in 2004, James Urbamiak gave a sizzling but essentially static performance as a man defined from start to finish by his emotional torment. 

For this 2012 revival director Simon Evans and actor John Light have chosen a less intense approach that is in some ways more satisfying as drama. 

Their speaker is just as unhappy, but the focus of the hour is on the journey he takes from mute anguish to being able to address his pain and thus bear it better. The road is one of indirection, talking around the subject, making jokes about it, approaching and backing off and approaching again. 

He begins with black comic tales of a boy seeing his dog die (Electrocuted, it 'flew like some poorly thought-out bird'.) and being stung by bees, and we're twenty minutes into the hour before the real subject of his pain is even mentioned. 

Even then he keeps trying to back away through jokes and digressions ('Nobody ever asked him what he was thinking, so he never really got into the habit.'), while still spiralling closer and closer to some sort of resolution. 

It is that process, more than the intensity of the emotion, that drives and carries John Light's performance and holds our attention and identification, making for a satisfying if slightly cooler-than-it-might-be hour. 

Ultimately the subject being avoided turns out to be a rather ordinary one, but where that seemed a weakness in 2004, it here makes the speaker all the more identifiable with and sympathetic. 

Apart from the fine direction and acting, Will Eno's text is a pleasure to experience on its own, especially as you come to realise that what sometimes plays like aimless ramblings is actually very precisely structured. 

Though Eno may rely a bit too much on Woody Allen-style anticlimactic jokes ('We're on Planet Earth, a planet in a solar system, one of a trillion solar systems in our galaxy, which is one of a billion galaxies in our universe. What can one man do? I've been taking vitamin supplements.') he can also write lines that resonate with power - 'I wasn't anywhere. Then I was in love.' 

Thom Pain is only an hour long, but it contains more matter than many full-length plays.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Thom Pain - The Print Room 2012   

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