In Lambeth a play starring Tom Paine

“In Lambeth” is a play set on the eve of the Storming of the Bastille in the titular London borough. Thomas Paine flees a mob and finds himself in the garden of intellectual fellow traveller William Blake, who’s arboreally elevated full frontal nudity adds to the drama and serves to highlight the two men’s differing approaches to social change.

The Blakes

Still from promotional video

Cultured correspondent Ed Hallam saw the opening performance on Thursday and says “I imagine the libertarians would enjoy it”. Knowing Ed a little, I think his opinion is certainly worth a gamble.

This is not the first run for the play so we can look back at the previous reviews. Derek Watts of the Crawley Observer saw the 2009 production and is more skeptical than Ed. He described the play as an “interesting but ultimately somewhat directionless piece”, but also provides a romantic description of the plot, acting, and the production, including the following:

Tom Paine, pamphleteer, revolutionary, republican has stumbled into the Lambeth garden of William Blake, the visionary artist, poet and dissident. He is given a meal and a lot of booze and the two men trade images of a perfect world. For the most part they share those dreams but they differ fundamentally in how to get there. Paine is the pragmatic politician, whose starting point is what exists and stressing that revolution is achieved by mobilizing the people to overthrow the system. Blake is the romantic visionary, the idealist who believes that before you can have revolution you have to have revelation, which may or may not include the odd spot of regicide along the way.

Love and Madness carries photographs of the 2009 production and additional reviews.

Spellbound Productions’ “In Lambeth” was written by Jack Shepherd. The run continues until Saturday 2nd August at The Southwark Playhouse. The show starts 7.30pm and there is a matinee at 3pm.

After the Tuesday show there will be a discussion with the cast and creative team after the show. That sounds like an excellent opportunity for a contribution from active libertarians.


  1. I think I would get the first coach out of London to avoid both men (and their delusions) – off to Beaconsfield to see Edmund Burke.

    A messy house (complained visitors) full of relatives and friends and we-are-not-quite-sure-who-he-is (oddly enough even con men who intended to take advantage of the Burkes good nature – ending up being ashamed of taking advantage of the Big Man and found work) – but never a place lacking in hospitality (even if Edmund Burke and his wife were not entirely sure who their visitor was). And a lot of good talk (and good tea and coffee – or something stronger) to be had. Even years of torment with cancer (ending in death) did not change that – only someone who knew him well (or came to know him well) would realise that the jolly Irishman was actually in terrible pain (that the big belly was not fat – that it hid a terrible secret).

    Although it did lead to Burke’s one vanity – the secret burial so that Revolutionaries could not find his corpse and feed it to pigs (as was their custom), although I suspect that was more for the benefit of Mrs Burke (who would have been upset by such conduct) than that of Edmund Burke.

    One does not improve society by getting government to do stuff – nor does getting rid of the King and landed aristocracy change this, an elected government is no better at doing X, Y, Z than any other form of government (lesson – government should not try to do X, Y, Z).

    Nor is a revolt against traditional standards of conduct “freedom” – basically it is just the choice to make an arse of one’s self (certainly people should be free to choose to be arse – but it is better if they choose not to be arse).

    Get taxes and government spending down. And get rid of regulations – such as those on “engrossing and forestalling” (the wholesale trade).

    Living conditions will improve (slowly and painfully) if government gets out to the way – but their are no quick fixes and magic wands in human affairs.

    And if you want to help people then HELP PEOPLE – do it with your own hands. Do not wax lyrical about how in a ideal society there would be no poverty (or other such tosh), thus meaning that you personally do not have help anybody.



      1. I choose lower taxes, less government spending and less regulations. Of getting the Sword (the Sword of State) as much as possible out of Civil Society.

        I do not believe that either Mr Paine of Mr Blake would have been of any use for these purposes.


      2. You are too anchored in the concretes Paul. Yes, Paine is a CBIer (spit ptooey) although I know little of Blake I hazard he is the worse of the two, but for the purposes of the play they represent too answers to a strategic question. Whether to reveal truth in art and poetic forms or whether to agitate and plot for revolution. This a question we face now.


      3. Simon – art (even great art) does not always reveal truth, sometimes it pushes falsehood (for example the factories of London were hard places – but they were not “satanic” and closing them down would have made life worse not better). Although I am amused by respectable ladies from the Women’s Institute singing this stuff at the end of their meetings.

        As for Revolution – if a Revolutionary proves to me that his (or her Revolution) will mean a smaller more restrained government, then I am interested. If it is about replacing unelected rulers with elected ones – then I am not interested.

        Yes I am anchored in the concretes((although not just the concretes) – perhaps this means I have no soul, or perhaps it means I am unimpressed by fine speeches (I have heard too many of them).

        I do not reject principles – but I want them to be clearly expressed in straight forward language.


  2. Thomas Paine went from saying (in “Rights of Man” – part two) that getting rid of the monarchy (and hangers on) could provide enough money for all sorts of goodies for the people (when it was pointed out that his maths was bogus) to (in “Agrarian Justice”) supporting a tax of up to 100% or large landowners. Shades of Franklin Roosevelt’s proposal in 1942 that anyone who earned more than 25 thousand Dollars (1942 Dollars) should face a tax of 100% (he did NOT mean just during World War II). Franklin Roosevelt that anyone who suggested (after World War II) going back to the limited government “normalcy” of the 1920s was a “Fascist” (a bit odd as it was Franklin Roosevelt, not his limited government supporting opponents, who had praised the economic policies of Mussolini in the 1930s – indeed “FDRs” “National Recovery Agency” was based on Mussolini’s Fascism). The best that can be said for these people (Thomas Paine, Franklin Roosevelt….) is that when they see the Terror that is the inevitable result of unlimited government, they tend to recoil from the Terror.



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