A Common Man: The Bridge That Tom Built

Striding onto the stage accompanied by thunderous fanfare, taking his place on a podium and decrying the evil of tyrants and the chains of authority, Dominic Allen’s blistering and bombastic entrance as Thomas Paine in his one man show about the life of the free thinker and revolutionary scholar certainly grabs your attention and sets the tone for a gripping and completely enthralling hour of astounding storytelling and theatre. Telling the story of Tom Paine, from his humble beginnings as the son of a corset maker, to his exploits in revolutionary America and France and ultimate death, the show’s fast paced script is filled full of interesting historical details regarding the man’s life that instantly draw you in whilst firmly rooting you in the historical settings of the 18th century. Any exposition or facts needed to understand a particular situation are woven so naturally into the story that you barely notice them and the script at no point feels dry or overstuffed, indeed the hour flies by and the plight of a 18th century academic is made to feel as contemporary and relevant as any modern day struggle for freedom and democracy.

This show is highly recommended and not to missed by anyone with even the remotest interest in history, politics, satire or even just bloody good storytelling.

All of this would have been for nought if the script was not in the hands of a suitably talented performer and Dominic Allen is more than equipped to rise to the challenge, delivering an astonishingly energetic and uplifting performance. He perfectly embodies Paine at every stage of his life, from youthful vigour to elderly bitterness and regret, whilst simultaneously giving voice and distinct personalities to the other characters that populate his tale, from the preening George Washington to the scheming Robespierre. He completely holds you for the one hour runtime and I found myself forgetting to take notes as I was sucked into Allen’s incredible performance. Despite the risk of becoming too morbid or self-important Allen keeps Paine relatable, showing him warts and all and bringing out the humour within the tale that had the audience roaring with laughter and often applauding wildly.

Technically the show is no slouch either, the tech perfectly complementing the action on stage and helping set the scene, whilst the set and costume use little to contribute to a wonderful sense of place and time. All of this together creates an amazing mood and atmosphere that makes the audience feel like they are in the centre of a world wracked by revolution and change, taking us along on the path forged by Tom himself. Indeed leaving one feels empowered and emboldened, inspired to take on the problems of our times the same way this incredible man took on the problems of his.

This show is highly recommended and not to be missed by anyone with even the remotest interest in history, politics, satire or even just bloody good storytelling. 

Reviews by Joseph McAulay

Pleasance Courtyard

Great British Mysteries: 1599?

★★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

Kill the Beast: Director's Cut

★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

No Kids

★★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

Dietrich: Natural Duty

★★★★
Summerhall

DollyWould

★★★★
Traverse Theatre

Ulster American

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

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 takes you from Norfolk street to American battlefield, from ship to shore in a remarkable historical adventure. ‘It is always sheer joy to watch Dominic Allen perform’ (BroadwayBaby.com). ‘Thrillingly evokes an era of men in breeches... of the masses overthrowing their rulers’ (Scotsman).

Most Popular See More

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Hairspray

From £21.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Only Fools and Horses - The Musical

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets