As I, Tommy begins, warm reds glow from the stage, the centrepiece of which features the socialist politician Tommy Sheridan in a likeable Che Guevara pose. From a beautifully retro jukebox, Frank Sinatra belts out “That’s life… that’s what all the people say…”. Perhaps “I did it my way” would have been more appropriate entrance music for this performance, a Red Aye production charting Sheridan’s career.
During the rest of the performance, the music used is cheap and cheesy. This sets the tone for a production promoted as “irreverant tragi-comedy”, which does not disappoint on that score. Colin McCredie enters and promises a “traditional Scottish night of broken dreams, backbiting and treachery”. What we get instead is the worst of Scottish culture with a few good jokes thrown in here and there. For the rest of the evening, McCredie narrates every section in the same sad, flat, monotonous drone. In fairness, this does perfectly suit his somewhat tragic main character, Alan McCombes – but this doesn’t stop his voice grating after a while.
Innuendo and cheap shots are fired left, right and centre, around a space that is poorly used and contains a set that never changes. The plethora of political in-jokes mean that anyone outside Solidarity or the Scottish Socialist Party should really do their research on Sheridan before watching. However, for most, Sheridan’s reputation will precede him, and an unapologetically caustic presentation does nothing in his defence. There’s a parodic feel to it, veering more towards foot-in-mouth than tongue-in-cheek. Whilst Des McClean’s ‘Tam O’Ranter’ vocal impersonation of Sheridan is spot on, at times the production seems more like a Tommy Sheridan tribute act than anything else.
That aside, this production does contain some real gems. A parade of faces from the life and times of the expert blagger include Alice, Sheridan’s club-style-singing mother, who’s delightfully eccentric. Michele Gallagher brings a fresh later of comedy, class and all the best one-liners, which she delivers with flair. When Tommy doesn’t propose to wife Gail, Michele Gallagher (in a role she was born to play) reminds us that “a woman wants something more permanent than eternity”. I adored the fabulously avant-garde wedding scene too, but my personal favourite came towards the end when we were given Sheridan’s infamous court session from two opportunist perspectives. Centre stage, “Miniature Spice” sings Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, whilst an authentic Glaswegian Ned flogs “Team Sheridan” memorabilia from one of the boxes.
If some of Sheridan’s signature bunkum had been cut, the performance could easily have fitted into the space of an hour, which would have been more than enough. Overall, though, I, Tommy is a real guilty pleasure, but I can vouch for one thing – you will laugh.
I, Tommy completed its Scottish tour at the Kings’ Theatre, Glasgow on 10 November 2012.