‘I Tommy’ at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow. A Review

Carnybull takes a break from a steroid stratosphere to review a night at the theatre north of the border.

I trust readers will be all-too-familiar with the life and works of Tommy Sheridan, the so-called Scottish socialist, ex- Militant, ex-Scottish Socialist Party and now leader of the diminutive ‘Solidarity’ or, as wags would have it after his trials, ‘Squalidarity’. The creator of that bible of Scottish working class folklore ‘Rab C. Nesbitt’, Ian Pattison, has penned a show celebrating Tommy’s life, trials and subsequent jailing for perjury.

It has to be said that this is one of the cheapest sets ever seen on stage. Prop expenditure is at Youth Club levels. But the acting is fine, especially from the women playing the parts of slighted SSP members, with a standout performance from Michelle Gallagher as a shopaholic Gail Sheridan. Gail’s best line come as she mis-reads a statement from her husband after his jailing ‘I’ll be back, STRANGER than ever..er, sorry STRONGER than ever’. The central characters are Colin McCredie, playing Alan McCombes, who narrates the story, and Des Mclean playing Tommy himself.

Mclean, a Glaswegian comedian, made his name satirizing Tommy for many years, has him off to a tee, finding easy laughs from the local audience throughout. Whist the whole ensemble do their best to bring Tommy’s life and time up to date, they do so against the constraints of a script which misses a raft of golden opportunities to highlight the sociopathy underlying many a political career.

Ian Pattison, an anarchic comic writer of rare ability, had over a year to perfect the script from a wealth of source material including Alan McCombes book ‘Downfall’, extensive transcripts of the perjury trail and numerous reports of the preceding libel trial. Yet he misses out heated exchanges between Tommy’s bullying cross-examination of female members of the SSP. Nowhere to be heard is the classic episode where Tommy’s show on Radio Talksport advocated the right to strike for police; only for him to be arrested by police ‘comrades’ in the car park afterwards! And nothing is said about Tommy condemning the 500 arrested at the Poll Tax Riot whilst we rotted in police cells.

In short, the show is far too kind to the man, perhaps because, like him or loathe him, he is a celebrity and the media make money from celebrities by building them up – and by knocking them down. This show straddles the divide making it play safe with any future political development. That is a compromise born of expediency and not to be expected from a writer of Pattison’s undoubted calibre.

It feels as though he’s been to willing to be influenced by Alan Mc/Coombes

As one of Tommy’s victims and Des McLean as a Glasgow comedian guaranteed to put bums on seats, instead of being true to his art and pushing the boundaries as he does so often in Rab C. Nesbitt.

A lack of key source material providing independent satire takes away the bite the play needs to find an audience outside Scotland. However, it is guaranteed to provide hours of fun north of the border. Especially when you hear that over 30 Solidarity supporters have approached Tommy to reassure him they have bought tickets to support Tommy and hope he makes some money from the show – to Tommy’s intense frustration!