Review: I, Tommy, Gilded Balloon Teviot, Edinburgh

I, Tommy

Sex, socialism and sub-standard comedy in this play about the (in)famous Sheridan

By Mark Brown


First, a confession. Like Tommy Sheridan, I, too, have frequented… socialist meetings. However, contrary to media myth, left-wingers in Scotland don’t divide neatly into Tommy’s cheerleaders and those who stick pins in his effigy before they go to bed. I, for one, am of neither persuasion.

Which, in short, means I arrived at Ian Pattison’s eagerly-anticipated new comedy, I, Tommy, more than prepared to have a laugh, not only at Sheridan, but at a sorry episode which split a left which already had a tendency to be about as united as a sack of bad-tempered rodents.

Laugh I did, but not often. Pattison’s play is not so much the Scottish left’s The Thick Of It as Carry On Sheridan. ‘I am not a politician who will kiss your baby’, says Sheridan in the play, ‘I am a politician who will give you a baby.’

One would expect better from the creator of Rab C Nesbitt. Making sex jokes at the expense of Sheridan is the comic equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. Yet Pattison rarely rises above the double-entendres long enough to surpass the comic moment when, following Sheridan’s dismissal of his legal team during the original libel trial, the hated Scottish Sun carried the undeniably funny headline, ‘Tommy drops his briefs’.

Des McLean plays Sheridan with a humorously overblown rhetorical style, whilst Colin McCredie performs the role of Alan McCombes (the former friend, now demoniser-in-chief, of the fallen politician) with an earnestness that illuminates Pattison’s sympathies.

Sheridan used to say that socialists should be interested in ‘what’s happening in the boardrooms, not what’s happening in the bedrooms.’ If only he’d stuck to that line when his own private life was in the spotlight. He could have spared himself a year in prison, and spared theatre audiences this low grade comedy.


This review was originally published on the website of The List magazine on August 7, 2012

© Mark Brown

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