In 1697 a university student from Edinburgh, Thomas Aikenhead, was prosecuted and executed at the age of 20 on the charge of blasphemy. He was the last person in Britain to be executed on this charge and on 8th January, Thomas was hanged in a public execution on the road between Edinburgh and Leith. I Am Thomas - a brutal comedy with songs is just that, a brutal time in our past brought to life with humour and music and told beautifully by a incredibly multitalented cast.
This production never sits still, as it bounces backwards and forwards in time. It’s relevance to current day events constantly emphasised, not least by the numerous pop culture references; we pass from Ziggy Stardust to Jaws via Goodfellas in a frantic first half of action, where Thomas’ role (and shirt) is passed between cast members to underline his everyman status in the cause of free speech. In the face of religious extremism, we are all Spartacus.
There are some great musical numbers. Myra McFadyen’s haunting folk song gives way to a cheeky Music Hall examination of Scottish history by the cast. Iain Johnstone’s passionate piano torch song carries us through much of the action, but John Pfumojena’s haunting vocals will stay with the audience for some time afterwards. Simon Armitage’s lyrics are very much one of the stars here, moving smoothly from sublime astral descriptions to the absurdity of football cliché in a beat, a group of aging pundits providing the chorus to the dark comedy unfurling on the rest of the stage.
This is undoubtedly a unique tale, inspired by a short story by James Robertson. Manly told through songs, composer Iain Johnson and lyricist Simon Armitage have been very clever with their arrangements. The mood and tone is set perfectly right the way through by the actors playing various instruments, and there are moments where the vocals leave you with goose bumps.
Told by an Idiot are very good at telling important stories, discovering characters of the past that are still relevant in today's society and whose lives ended dramatically and unjustly. Lovely storytelling told by an incredible cast and will have you laughing one minute and crying the next.
Cast: John Cobb, Charlie Folorunsho, Amanda Hadingue, Iain Johnstone, Myra McFadyen, Hannah McPake, Dominic Marsh, John Pfumojena