The seemingly disjointed but precisely constructed ramblings of a man overcome by emotion, Will Eno’s one-hour monologue is delivered by John Light with more of an emphasis on the man’s attempt to wrestle some order out of his confusion than on the intensity of his passions.
John Light (Thomas Paine) in Thom Pain (Based on Nothing) at the Print Room, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
That the man is in pain is clear from the start, though he must first address it obliquely through black comic anecdotes of a mishap-prone childhood. It is 20 minutes in before a woman is mentioned, and even then the speaker must gingerly approach and withdraw from the painful topic of a love not so much lost as thrown away.
In the original production in 2004, James Urbaniak filled the room with the man’s self-lacerating agony, but here director Simon Evans and performer John Light use a lighter touch, allowing more of the text’s humour to come through, most strongly in the first half and then intermittently as he becomes less able to protect himself with jokes, thereby dramatising the speaker’s gradually disintegrating defence mechanisms.
So this is less a play about us gradually learning why the man has been miserable from the start and more the process of him coming to grips with the source and extent of a misery he has been hiding from.