Thorn review at Sweet Dukebox, Brighton – ‘powerfully desolate’
Coming to the Brighton Fringe via Edinburgh and this year’s Sprint Festival at Camden People’s Theatre, Thom Jordan’s one-man play has changed title along the way. And not only is Thorn punchier than Cleansed in the Blood, it’s sharper, more clenched – as is Jordan’s performance.
Drawing on Jordan’s own childhood as a minster’s son in Australia and the real-life scandal of a Pentecostal minister who faked having cancer, this hour-long show explores the journey of ‘miracle child’, Paul, from leukaemia survivor to 25-year-old preacher.
It’s a piece about need – religion not simply as a suppressive force but an addictive one, with faith acting as a dynamo, ceaselessly transforming misery into meaning. The main strength of Jordan’s writing and the restless pace of Julia Patey’s production is to capture the rush of the pulpit spotlight for Paul. We’re not kept at arm’s length here. We’re his congregation.
The play is overstated at times – clumsily energetic. But when it shades into darkness towards the end, Jordan, as Paul, carries it high. His shift from bouncy charisma to bitterness seems to shift the quality of the air in the Sweet Dukebox’s backroom space. Disgustedly yanking off his tie, his sudden fierceness is powerfully desolate.