Will Eno’s Thom Pain (based on nothing) combines wry humour, melancholy and intimacy with beautiful, yet bittersweet results. Taking us on a journey into the somewhat erratic mind of the easily distracted Thom Pain (David Jeffrey), we hear tales of his disappointing childhood, failed romances that continue to haunt him and his ongoing pain and disdain towards life in general.

Taking place on an empty stage, aside from a chair, a desk and a dictionary, all attention is on Jeffrey, whose commanding stage presence is inescapable. Given the challenging aspects of a one-man show, Jeffrey is a natural. Director Julie Baz also ensures Jeffrey is brought to life and his presence felt, not only onstage, but also throughout the entire theatre.

Although the dialogue and storyline can at times be fragmented, with Thom’s tales drifting between the past and present, it is the powerful delivery of his words and the immensity of pain he conveys about life in general that takes the play to another level altogether.

The threat of audience participation, which fortunately never eventuates, comes in the form of the constant presence Jeffrey lingering over the unsuspecting audience members, speaking or ranting at them directly. Instead of being a distraction, however, the interaction actually melds cleverly into the story, giving it even more of a personal edge and letting you to believe you are having your own intimate conversation with Thom.

Through a delicately worded script, Thom Pain (based on nothing) questions the mundane roles we play in life, with powerful one-liners such as “People out here don’t love you enough to spit on you,” and “I’m trying to be someone else, someone better,” whose meaning and impact linger in your mind for hours afterwards. Although disturbingly true to life at times, this is a clever, funny and imaginative performance that should not be missed.

4/5 stars

Thom Pain (based on nothing) is playing at the Old Fitzroy Theatre until May 10.

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