At points of historical juncture, there are those who fight the dying orthodoxies of their time in the name of progress and liberty. Gadflies to the moribund hegemonic classes, these rebels are ridiculed, persecuted and often (if not worse) prosecuted. And few have been more so than Thomas Paine. This innervating one-man show by The Flanagan Collective has the radical himself (played with aplomb by Dominic Allen) relate to us his life story, from corset making in Thetford to Empire breaking in America.
From the moment he steps out from behind a draped stars and stripes (sans stars) Allen exudes passion for this history. He declaims, strutting about the stage in his buckled shoes, with such ease that it is sometimes difficult to tell where the script ends and the ad-libbing begins. The jokes are clever, unpretentious and very funny, with even the odd anachronism thrown in for good measure (such as when Tom is appointed Excise Officer in Grantham…). Yet this is balanced with poignancy; despite everything, Tom’s funeral was attended by just six people. The Bridge That Tom Built is meticulously researched, zealously performed, and – looking at the likes of Edward Snowden – a parable for today.