My name is Milo Cawthorne, I’m an actor in an upcoming new play called Thomus. The play is set in modern day NZ and follows a 17-year-old dude called Thomus, who’s in a tough situation. His parents are splitting up, he’s in a new city, he thinks he might be in love, and he’s being hunted by some local criminals. It’s full-on.

Because of the depth of the writing and the collection of characters, I think everyone will get something different from the play. The main thing I take from it is the importance of seeking comfort from within yourself, as opposed to outside of yourself. Having been through my teenage years, I could draw on personal experience to help work out the character of Thomus and lend some realism to his experience.

On the surface it’s a coming of age story, but it asks questions about what makes us truly happy, what we do when we are pushed to our limits, and whether the current societal set-up is geared towards us reaching a lasting happiness. It’s written in iambic pentameter, which is the same rhythm Shakespeare used. That basically means there are 10 syllables in each line and only half of them are stressed. 

e.g. that famous line from Hamlet, “to BE or NOT to BE; THAT is THE question.”

When we first meet Thomus, he’s in a bad way. Everything he once knew to be stable and reliable is crumbling before his eyes. His parents’ relationship is on the rocks and they argue constantly due to his mother’s infidelity. He left all his friends behind in Tauranga. He’s the new kid at a new school and doesn’t know anyone in this new city. It is a scary time for him, he feels alone, he’s angry at his parents, and he’s hopeless about the future.

He begins searching for some kind of meaning, something tangible to ease his pain. He seeks things outside of himself to quell his discomfort. He meets a girl at school and quickly develops a crush on her, thinking perhaps she might make him feel better about his situation. He then has a chance meeting with some local criminals and ends up doing a burglary with them so he can earn some quick cash.

Money is a powerful motivator for Thomus as he believes it could give his parents comfort. However, things get ugly when the criminals turn on Thomus and begin to threaten his family. He goes to the girl he met at school for help, thus drawing her into this dangerous situation and ensnaring them both in a very deadly game of cat and mouse.

Of course, my own teenage years were much less intense than this, but I could still use some of my own experiences to work out the emotional drivers of Thomus’ behaviour. I think every teenager (and every person, for that matter) has experienced that feeling of ‘hopelessness’ that Thomus experiences. The feeling of not being enough or being alone in the world. When I was in high school, the main thing that fuelled my malaise was my size. I was very thin and very short. As a young guy going through puberty, I had very low self-worth because of my body.

Everybody has coping mechanisms to face these feelings. Thomus looks to money and the affection of girls for comfort. I used clothing to hide my physique and make me feel better. I also made sure to use humour to deflect any honest communication and make fun of myself before anybody else could.

Eventually Thomus can’t run from his own pain any longer and has to confront it head on. It is only through the acknowledgement of his pain and going through the fear of facing it that he can become free of it. This was true for me as well. It was only once I came to the idea of self-acceptance that I could begin to work through my negative self-image.

It is a work in progress, as with anything in life, but this play has made me realise how far I’ve come since high school and how much more fulfilling it is to seek from within rather than from without.

milo cawthorne actor in thomus

Thomus opens at The Basement in Auckland on Tuesday 30 August. Click here for more details and to grab your tickets!