Thomas Paine, for those unfamiliar, was a United States Founding Father and one of those scoundrels who helped spark the American Revolution for independence. Not familiar with one of the key political journalists of western politics? No matter. In this solo show, Dominic Allen manages to squeeze in so much information, none of which feels forced, dull or dusty. Every scene of Paine’s life is a joy to witness. The past is given a tremendous breath of fresh air, pumped up and let loose in the venue. Every detail is thoroughly thought out and executed professionally, with some very witty writing.
Disgusting is a way to describe how well written tonight’s show is, disgustingly enviable. Each string is pulled and bound to a solid punchline or gut punch of pathos. Any readers who are familiar with the works of the BBC’s utterly perfect Horrible Histories, the writing here is sublimely similar, if tighter and more adult. There are in-jokes to the audience and breaks in the fourth wall, none of which feel out of place or ruin the illusion. Indeed, we get not just the character of Paine, but a very strong taste of Allen’s own personality. Not just this, the staging and lighting has obviously been crafted by a talented mind to emulate both the cold waters of the Delaware and the sharp crimson kiss of France’s madame guillotine.
If Rory Bremner did the 18th century, Allen may have had competition. Every single interpretation of a historical figure in Paine’s life: from Benjamin Franklin to Silas Deane is memorable. The audience has no issue laughing and identifying each person and taking away a line or mannerism of each. So much joy is felt from these creations it’s easy to tell the level of respect, knowledge and admiration found within this production.
Thomas Paine penned one of western political literature’s most fundamental pieces: Common Sense. If you have any, you’ll be attending A Common Man at your earliest convenience. Like Paine, Dominic Allen has a mighty impressive pen