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Brighton Fringe 2016

Low Down

Thom Jordan brings over his one-man play about a creatively afflicted minister’s son hot from plaudits at the Adelaide Festival.


Thom Jordan brings Thorn from the Adelaide Fringe with accolades to Sweet Dukebox in a late afternoon slot of 16.45.

In just forty minutes we’re exposed to his persona Paul’s hurtling autobiography, just twenty-five years of a remarkable Christian life, a ‘miracle child’, the words his mother uses whenever she wants to reclaim him from talking to ordinary children.

Later she anxiously asks if he has a girl yet But the Lord has been so vigilant that he’s even pushed into internet porn and can’t always hide his google recommendations. No wonder he’s inexperienced.

For Paul’s no ordinary child but a son of the minister and destined for great things. You can tell this as he’s survived childhood hypoplastic leukemia, which ordinarily 80% of children survive: Paul’s in the other 20% but survives anyway because the Lord as his parents aver, has something incredible in store for him, even if it is how he’s been chosen to overcome his physical challenges – including the return of leukemia – by the operation of grace to give him strength.

It’s part of the Christian dialectical lexicon to use adversity to invert surrounding doubts into pillars. Thus the person most afflicted will suggest that if this hadn’t happened they’d never have found the Lord. It’s casuistry designed to overcome Doubt through the operation of paradoxical intent. Paul embodies this vision.

He wears a nasal drain and body bag, he’s blessed with oratorical gifts and tells us how he’s progressed, interspersing his story with how he used the tale of his friend Steve, who by lying about health to avoid failing an assignment ends with a life-threatening lumber puncture. All he needs is Proverbs 4: 3 ‘and the truth shall set you free’. This is Paul’s breakthrough address but he still hasn’t quite made being the youngest great preacher at 22, though he’s been on TV thrice. This matters. All his suffering and that move to Sydney must be for a reason. Then his leukemia returns.

Jordan’s oratorical manner seethes with power, bellow, special pleading and a remarkable oratorical confiding. He arrays like an ensemble, an armoury of persuasion to whelm and overwhelm his hearers. It is however a performance and an unsettling one, however leavened by self-knowing comedy.

The denouement has to be seen. Jordan leads superbly by misdirection. His repertoire of clothes donned and doffed with some difficulty attached as he is to a bag, and more given away the more he dons, is well-rehearsed. The show needs no special lighting or other effects though an occasional lights-softening would also modulate the necessarily relentless tone. Jordan’s particularly adept at moving seamlessly around the stage to eyeball and take in everyone, which he does by using a preacher’s manner of direct address, as if he’s Billy Graham. In such a small space it could appear over-energetic but Jordan paces himself confidently. An extremely assured debut, and the most energized one of its length I’ve seen.