In the summer of 2006, Scotland’s most controversial and popular politician, Tommy Sheridan, took on the legal might of the Murdoch empire and won. But, Murdoch hit back and in January 2011; Sheridan was jailed for perjury. It was an incredible turn around. The man who, a couple of years earlier had become a hero in the eyes of the Scottish people was now seen as a sexual deviant and villainous liar. Who would have seen this situation as the premise for a comedy play? Well… Ian Pattison did.
Known for creating the legendary Glaswegian Rab C. Nesbitt, Pattison is no stranger to the theatre. In his third stage play, he tells the story of this very public fall from grace of a man who had the potential of going to the top of Scottish politics instead of going to prison.
In I, Tommy, Pattison delivers a script which encapsulates the major episodes in the life of Tommy Sheridan while director Sacha Kyle assembles a creative cast who bring it all to life. The story is narrated by Sheridan’s former friend and colleague, Alan McCombes. Colin McCredie appears onstage as McCombes holding aloft an inflated red balloon - which he eventually bursts. McCredie conducts the story well, stopping and starting the action with a click of his finger to offer up facts. In doing this he shows the audience the high regard and trust the party put on Sheridan – and the disappointment felt when they were betrayed, discredited and ridiculed by his selfish actions.
In portraying Sheridan as an idealistic student fighting the struggles of the working classes in the eighties to a man fighting for political survival, comedian Des McLean cannot be faulted. He has the voice, the looks and the mannerisms perfected, right down to the Fist of Rage which has become Sheridan’s visual war cry. His comedic timing ensures the audience laughs in all the right places, and he works well to turn Sheridan into something of a panto baddie.
Michelle Gallagher gives a fantastic performance as Sheridan’s wife Gail. She initially appears to be the ever attentive wife supporting her husband but, once crossed, she is a woman firmly in control – a veritable upmarket Mary Doll in sunglasses and heels. Rebecca Elise and Martin McCormick deserve great credit for playing the various different characters who really give the piece depth and texture. I, Tommy is an enjoyable light-hearted account of Sheridan’s shenanigans but unfortunately masks the full damage done to his political party and the pain and hurt felt by the many people who couldn’t avoid getting caught in the fallout from the disaster caused by an egotistical man hell bent on trying to hide his sexual misdemeanours. Ian Pattison has written a great comic play for which he should be applauded but here’s the dilemma: why should a man such as Sheridan be whooped and cheered for? At least he comes across as a buffoon...
I, Tommy is at the King's Theatre, Glasgow, until 10 November, 2012.