Review: Thomas Paine story at Diss Corn Hall
PUBLISHED: 08:50 20 May 2019
Thomas Paine only worked in Diss for a year, but we still make a claim on him, so it was pleasing that the playwright and performer, Ian Ruskin’s tour of the UK, following in Paine’s footsteps, stopped off at the Corn Hall.
His one-man show, Thomas Paine's To Begin the World Over Again, played to an attentive and appreciative audience.
We did get a brief nod to Paine's time in East Anglia, but the greater part of Ruskin's play understandably focused on the time spent in the US and France.
This meant we never got to explore how such an extraordinary thinker emerged from such an ordinary life, but perhaps that mystery is unknowable.
What did come across was Ruskin's obvious affection and admiration for his subject, which he inhabited with almost uncanny verisimilitude, bringing to the stage a tumultuous life with a brisk narrative that captivated his audience from the outset.
I could have happily dispensed with Elliott Gould's spectral narration - to my mind it dissipated the intimacy engendered by Ruskin's powerful stage presence - but otherwise this was an attractively stage production. Lighting, sound effects and discreet, but effective, direction from Shanga Parker, adding to an experience that was sometimes melancholy, frequently moving, and ultimately life affirming.