Presented by Red Line Productions
Reviewed 29 July 2020
Red Line Productions, based in Sydney, Australia, is known to be one of Australia’s leading professional independent theatre presenters, with a string of nominations and awards for a multitude of productions. Their most recent offering, Thom Pain (based on nothing) by Will Eno, is another winner.
With all that is happening in our world at the moment, the Arts is one thing that has been unable to run in its usual format. A number of companies, such as Red Line Productions, are taking the bold step to live stream their performances, and it’s certainly helping fill those quiet nights at home. Thom Pain (based on nothing) is streamed live in front of 9 cameras positioned around the stage of The Old Fitz Theatre in Sydney. This allows the solo actor, Toby Schmitz, to perform in-the-round, adding an extra magical element to this production. This is live theatre at its best.
Written in 2004 by American playwright Will Eno, Thom Pain (based on nothing) can best be described as a rambling monologue from the protagonist, who has clearly suffered a lot in his life. The script intertwines several short stories with observations about life, his surroundings, audience members and random objects, such as a handkerchief. It cleverly takes us into the mind of a man who is desperately searching for some meaning.
It is clear in this production why Toby Schmitz is one of Australia’s finest actors. His performance is faultless, as is his direction with co-director Andrew Henry. Schmitz handles the script as if it’s his own words, making you second-guess if you are watching a live performance, or sitting with “that guy” in the pub who will talk to anyone who will listen to his ramblings. Every beat, every moment of silence, every simple hand gesture, every inflection has been carefully thought through by both directors and performer to make this performance as natural as it could be.
The setting, a blank stage with only a few lighting trusses, and at times dim lighting, gives this production a real sense of Film Noir. Schmitz, dressed in a black suit, black tie, white shirt and black thick rimmed glasses, owns the stage. Each camera is focused and angled purposefully to enhance different emotions and moments of the script. Some theatre scripts don’t cross over well to be viewed on a screen without major rewriting. However, this script, and brilliant direction and use of cameras, make the viewer feel they are in the room with Schmitz.
Streaming for only a few more performances, this is truly a ground-breaking production: a must see, or in this case, a must ‘view’. Red Line Productions’ publicist best describes this in their own media release: [‘Thom Pain (based on nothing)’ is] live, intimate and often electrifying. THIS is what theatre is all about.
Reviewed by Ben Stefanoff
Rating out of 5: 4.5
Red Line are committed to their live streams being accessible during these difficult times, so people have the ‘option’ to buy a ticket if they have the means – anything from $10 to $100.
Adelaide Mon 29 June 2020 – Fri 3 July at 7:00pm and Sat 4 July 11.00am
Photo Credit: Trent Suidgeest