I Am Thomas

I am Thomas is an economic show bound together with a fantastic cast. Though billed as a “brutal comedy with songs”, there are in fact more songs than comedy; this is largely fine as the songs are pretty good. Composer Ian Johnstone, who also performs as part of the ensemble cast, brings in a variety of styles, but his best works take their cues from Kurt Weill. Best known as a poet, Simon Armitage pens the lyrics which work well, though there are a few lines that are missed opportunities for jokes – whether that was done intentionally or not, I am unsure.

I Am Thomas has a political point but it doesn't beat you over the head with it.

The play, or the bits between the songs to be accurate, is inspired by the story of Thomas Aikenhead, the last person to feel the hangman's noose for blasphemy in Scotland and England. But rather than set it in the 17th century, it has a loose late 1970’s timeframe. By the end of the show everyone has taken a turn of playing the doomed Thomas which, as metaphors go, is perhaps a bit heavy handed; but it works well and is even played for the occasional laugh.

In fact the show is packed with plenty of good jokes and you’ll have to be paying close attention to get all the best ones, which I fear some audience members might miss.

All this would be moot without the stellar cast. All eight members are irritatingly talented; they all act, sing, and play multiple instruments. They achieve in this production what usually takes a cast of 20 with a live band and should maybe think about leaving some talent for the rest of us.

I Am Thomas has a political point but it doesn't beat you over the head with it. Maybe its irreverent spin on historical tragedies and the ones we face today might not be to everyone’s taste, but if you like Brecht, jokes, and songs you’d be a blasphemer to miss this production.

Reviews by James W. Woe

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

“It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.” (Voltaire, 1770)

Collaborating with award-winning poet Simon Armitage, Told by an Idiot, National Theatre Scotland and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh present a wildly comic and provocative piece of music theatre.

Edinburgh; a cold town on the edge of civilisation, in very much the Year of Our Lord, 1696. The church has spies everywhere. Here, you keep your coun-sel and choose your words with care ... unless you are Thomas Aikenhead– a loud-mouthed, smart-arsed and likable student at the university. A man in the wrong place at absolutely the wrong time ... trouble is brewing for Thom-as.

A rich vein of black humour is exploded in this account of the last person in Britain to be executed for blasphemy. Using Told by an Idiot’s internationally celebrated theatrical invention, we glimpse into Edinburgh’s dark past to re-veal this true story with universal resonance.

A riotous and unsettling drama which swings between 1696 and the present day, I Am Thomas is performed with an original live score.