Radical writer and director Trevor Griffiths has made an inspiring play telling the true story of an ordinary man transformed by the extraordinary times he lived through in the revolutionary upsurge at the end of the 18th century.
Paine spent the first 37 years of his life in obscurity in England.
But in 1774 he started a new life in the American colonies just as an independence movement emerged.
Paine worked as a radical journalist. As his talent matured he became the voice of revolution, putting the case for a United States of America.
Once the new state was established, Paine returned to Britain to spread his revolutionary message of social justice.
But he was harassed by the state and made his way to France, where another revolution was in progress – the king had been overthrown and feudalism abolished.
Griffiths has worked on this project for more than 20 years. It was conceived as a film, but could never get funding. Last year it was reworked as a radio drama. Now it has been adapted for the stage.
It’s a wonderful work that must be seen. How often does mainstream theatre celebrate a revolutionary, let alone one of the stature of Paine?
A New World: A Life of Tom Paine
by Trevor Griffiths
Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, London,
until 9 October