Play preview: Pulitzer finalist Thom Pain (based on nothing) to be staged at Jagriti Theatre in Bengaluru

Rebecca Spurgeon will be directing the Will Eno play, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2005

August 18, 2023 10:00 am | Updated 10:00 am IST

Preetam Koilpillai in Thom Pain (based on nothing)

Preetam Koilpillai in Thom Pain (based on nothing) | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The New York Times‘s review of Thom Pain (based on nothing) says, “It’s one of those treasured nights in the theatre — treasured nights anywhere, for that matter — that can leave you both breathless with exhilaration and, depending on your sensitivity to meditations on the bleak and beautiful mysteries of human experience, in a puddle of tears. Also in stitches, here and there.”

The play by Will Eno was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2005. It is a rambling monologue, performed as a one-man show, which tells the story of a dog, a bee sting and a woman, among many other things.

The play started as a reading at the Soho Theatre and was performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2004. It premiered the United States Off-Broadway at the DR2 Theatre in 2005. The play has been translated into over a dozen languages, and since 2005 has been produced regularly around the US and the world.

Rebecca Spurgeon will be directing the play for the Bengaluru audience for five shows between August 18 to 20 at Jagriti Theatre. 

Rebecca, a theatre actor and director, came across the play sometime after the COVID-19 pandemic began. She has an affinity for solo-act plays because they push her as a director.

“When you have a single actor on stage, how you think about constructing the show is entirely different from when you have a bunch of people on stage in a set. All the other stuff that usually goes into production is stripped away, so you have to dig deep and work with the basic idea of theatre: a space, a light, an actor, words, and the body. It’s immensely challenging but I’m drawn to that sort of challenge,” she says.

Thom Pain (based on nothing) fit these criteria. But there was another requirement, perhaps the most important one: a solid actor. Until she found one, she was not going to direct the play. “The play is very emotional. The character discusses the challenging aspects of life, such as love, loss, and grief. When you’re watching the play, any hint that the actor is merely “acting” or not being true would disrupt the entire experience. So, from the beginning to end, we wanted it to be genuine,” she says.

Rebecca wanted an actor who could pull this off. And she found Preetam Koilpillai, an actor, director and musician based in Bengaluru and Pondicherry. She knew him for a long time. “We both have a lot of synergy in the way we approach theatre and what we expect in a performance. So, I decided that I am not going to make the play without him.”

Thom Pain (based on nothing) will be staged five times at Jagriti Theatre, Whitefield, between August 18 and 20. Tickets on bookmyshow.com

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