Winnipeg Fringe Festival- First Play

A cardboard cutout of the single character in Thom Pain adorned the stage

A cardboard cutout of the single character in Thom Pain adorned the stage

I went to my first Fringe Play last night. It was Thom Pain written by Will Eno and performed by Grant Burr, who just happens to be the editor of The Carillon the regional newspaper I’ve worked for as a weekly columnist for many years.

The play was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and has been performed to great acclaim in cities around the world.  It reminded me of a stream of consciousness poem. The sole character reflects on his childhood, a romance gone awry and life in general. Existence has been tough for Thom as his last name suggests and we are forewarned about the darkness of the play when the lights fail to come on during its first few minutes. The script does have its funny moments and the small audience responded well to the humorous bits.

It must have been quite a feat to memorize this sixty minute reflective and erratic rant on how painful and fearful life can be. Talking to Grant later he said he’d taken holiday time off work to prepare and intimated that he wasn’t always able to deliver the script word for word the way it is written, although I thought he performed admirably without any discernible lapses in memory. 

One question in the play really got me thinking. “When did your childhood end?” A fellow play attendee told me after the show she thought her childhood had ended when her mother was diagnosed with cancer when she was just ten years old.  I think mine ended when I realized my parents weren’t perfect, although I can’t say exactly when that was. My husband told me his childhood has never ended.

Several references in the play reminded me of a poem by Raymond Carver called Fear which I studied with my high school students.  I wonder if the playwright Will Eno had read Carver’s poem. 

I liked the script’s reference to the overuse of the word ‘whatever’ in our modern-day as a way to express our tolerance of things we perhaps shouldn’t tolerate and the general laissez-faire attitude of much of society. This despite the fact a recent poll says ‘whatever’ is the phrase in the English language found to be the most annoying to people. 

Thom Pain can be uncomfortable to listen to because you feel sorry for the protagonist and at times perhaps can identify a little too closely with his story. One reviewer warns that ecstatically happy people shouldn’t attend this play. It is at the Red River College (RRC) Theatre, the alma mater of the play’s sole actor, Grant Burr.  He studied drama at the University of Winnipeg and Creative Communications at RRC. 

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Categories: Annual Events, Fringe Festival | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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