Thomas Truax

Thomas Truax


There is sometimes a chasm between lives led, and lives we would want to lead. Most of us spread ourselves an inch thin and a mile wide, diluting ourselves to satisfy the multifarious demands of life, and lose something of ourselves in that process. Credit then to those who find another way, choosing to create their own worlds where their sense and sensibilities align, and they can find ways to explore and find meaning albeit in the cocoon of their own inner imaginations.

Over the last 14 years Thomas Truax has crafted an act that shares his own imagined world, and tonight he once again conjures a landscape of lunatic rhythmic invention coupled with his own invented folklore, with songs of beauty and terror around the themes of insects, murder and love. I had heard of the unique nature of his show – and it certainly is unique, as he amicably wrestles and cajoles various homemade instruments to his will – but what I hadn’t been told was that first and foremost Truax is a gifted songwriter and performer. He inhabits his songs and characters with an intensity and belief that astounds. During the performance of ‘The Butterfly & The Entomologist’, an eerie ballad with a true sense of dark horror within it, he gazes at the exit light above the stage with such childlike intensity and wonder that it is compelling. I look around and notice half the audience following his gaze, craning to see what he’s witnessed.

Similarly in ‘Full Moon Over Wowtown’, he narrates the story while following a torchbeam around the room, eyes (trans)fixed on the image of the “moon” above. Then he breaks off in the middle of the song to better position his merchandise, reminding us to buy some later, before retiring behind a curtain to continue the song. But this is part of the act – a literal glimpse behind the curtain – before he seduces us into the song again, which he concludes by spinning in the centre of the crowd, orbiting around his own created moon.

Jennifer Kelly has described how the creativity of Truax “slops right over the edges of their music and floods the whole damned room”, and it is this fully immersive and transcendent experience that is so astounding. When you succumb to his gothic fantasies, you are no longer in a pub in Manchester’s Northern quarter, but are transported to a land of mystery and wonder as he spins his dark rich stories. And as we are guided through these twisted tales, we are like children hearing stories at bedtime, engrossed and entertained, wrapped in the magic of his storytelling.

But it’s not to say this is bleak or somber: Thomas Truax appears to be a funny, warm and quirky character who performs his act with a knowing slant, always hinting that the artifice can fall, and it’s all a show. He recognizes this and in fact giving centre stage and life to the instruments and tools that form the magic, constantly tweaking and adjusting them throughout the show: At least when he’s not slow-motion singing, clambering on the tables or pretending to be a fly. This is like the best theatre or a music hall performance, encouraging our willing suspension of disbelief while still acknowledging the physical world around us. He has an astonishing ambition for what can be achieved in a one man show, and the scale and presentation of his vision is overwhelming: It’s all probably driven him a little bit mad, but in the very best way.

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