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Actor bringing Thomas Paine ‘home’ to Thetford

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Thetford Grammar School welcomes back its most famous pupil after 270 years, in the form of a one-man play.

To Begin the World Over Again, about Thomas Paine, is written and performed by Ian Ruskin and will be at the school as part of its UK tour, on May 10, at 7pm.

The actor, who now lives in Los Angeles, said: “It is exciting and important for me personally to experience his actual surroundings.

“The fact his school is one of the oldest in England and continues to be a flourishing place of learning today is extraordinary and I feel that I am truly ‘bringing Paine home’.”

Thomas Paine was born in the town, on January 29, 1737, and attended the school from 1744 to 1749.

Actor Ian Ruskin, as Thomas Paine in 'To Begin the World Over Again'
Actor Ian Ruskin, as Thomas Paine in 'To Begin the World Over Again'

In 1776, after he met Benjamin Franklin in London and emigrated to America, he published his most famous pamphlet, Common Sense, which advocated American independence and was an important influence on the country’s revolution.

He later returned to Europe and wrote Rights of Man, which defended the French Revolution. His views led him to be sent to prison and after his release, he produced his last essay, The Age of Reason, which critiqued religion and Christian theology.

Thomas Paine died in New York City, on June 8, 1809.

Stuart Wright, committee member of the Thomas Paine Society UK, said: “Paine’s life story being retold at his old school allows current pupils and others to learn about Paine’s most interesting life, to understand the times in which he lived and the influence his writings had during that turbulent age.

“Paine’s journey from Thetford school boy to the best-selling author of the 18th century and the individuals he rubbed shoulders with, makes his story a fascinating piece of theatre which we are pleased to have performed by someone of the calibre of Ian Ruskin.”

Thetford Grammar headteacher, Michael Brewer, said: “We are used to former pupils coming back to visit, but Mr Paine’s 270-year absence from our school will make him by far the oldest Old Boy to come back.

“We are delighted the esteemed Mr Ian Ruskin is bringing Thomas Paine back to Thetford.

“It is a great opportunity for pupils to learn about one of our most famous alumni, as well as members of the wider Thetford community to enjoy an entertaining show celebrating one of our town’s most famous sons.”

For more details and to book tickets, go to www.leapinghare.org