A Common Man: The Bridge That Tom Built (4 stars)

Dominic Allen's portrait of a revolutionary is a triumph

A Common Man: The Bridge That Tom Built

As the foreshocks of the impending US election begin to ripple across the globe, the Flanagan Collective and Belt Up alum Dominic Allen's Fringe collaboration could hardly be more timely.

Revisiting the values of liberty, freedom, and secularism on which the United States was founded, A Common Man: The Bridge That Tom Built is the story of a man from Norfolk who cut himself adrift from his home to help found a new one for others by disseminating the Enlightenment principles that went on to form the basis of modern-day liberal democracy.

The stage is sparingly furnished: an upturned bucket serves as a pedestal for Thomas Paine's revolutionary rabble-rousing, while a wooden desk, strewn with papers that become increasingly disordered, serves as the workshop for his 'dangerous ideas'. Director Joe Hufton presides over the stage with an expert hand.

A slight set adjustment, coupled with a well-wrought line, seamlessly transforms the space from a bloody battlefield to a dank French prison to a cosy study, in which Tom wields his best purple quill, penning the pamphlets whose words inspired the dispossessed citizens of the embryonic United States and catalysed a revolution that transformed the landscape of the world.

Dominic Allen gives a sterling performance as the eponymous Tom. His Paine is a preternaturally engaging speaker, alive with righteous fervour and a contagious passion for social justice, whose stories brim with magnetic physicality and a sparkling rhetorical flair. Allen's prodigious talents are on full display throughout, as he channels revolutionary zeal and contemplative emotion with equal finesse.

C nova, 0845 260 1234, until 29 Aug (not 20 & 21, 25, 27), £10.50–£12.50 (£8.50–£10.50).

A Common Man: The Bridge That Tom Built

  • 4 stars

The Flanagan Collective and Dominic Allen Dominic Allen (Belt Up Theatre’s Outland) brings Thomas Paine back from the dead to tell his incredible story. The pirate who invented America, the corset maker that inspired the French Revolution and the ordinary man who built an extraordinary bridge. This gripping solo show…


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