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One-man show brings Thomas Paine to life in Diss

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Ian Ruskin
Ian Ruskin

In his lifetime, he was both famous and infamous. And Diss theatre-goers will be able make up their minds what side they are on when an actor brings Thomas Paine, the political activist, philosopher, theorist, revolutionary – and one-time Diss stay maker – to life at the Corn Hall, next week.

Ian Ruskin will perform his one-man play To Begin The World All Over Again: The Life of Thomas Paine on Thursday May 9. The evening before, the actor will appear in a Diss museum celebration of Paine’s connection with the town at the Beehive Yard in Denmark Street. Paine spent a year working for a Mr Gudgeon at what was to become Beehive Terrace in 1765.

Museum manager Basil Abbott said he hoped Mr Ruskin would also give a taste of his show from the Corn Hall steps before more entertainment and a talk in St Mary’s Hall. “Our Paine festival gave the museum one of its biggest successes, so we are pleased to recall that connection,” he said.

Mr Ruskin’s play has been performed close to 100 times in the US as well as in London. A film version was directed by Haskell Wexler, who famously made Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and The Thomas Crown Affair in the 1960s.

Paine’s writing ignited the American Revolution and defined the French Revolution. “For this, he was nearly hanged in England, nearly guillotined in France and, by the end of his life, more hated than loved in America,” said Mr Ruskin.

“I am retracing Paine’s footsteps so this is a homecoming for Diss’ most famous son.”

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