Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Tommy Sheridan - the rise and fall of a socialist hero

'Fall from grace was a real disappointment'. Picture: Jane Barlow

'Fall from grace was a real disappointment'. Picture: Jane Barlow

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HE can currently be found playing Tommy Sheridan’s ex-best friend in I, Tommy, at the Gilded Balloon, but ex-Taggart and River City star Colin McCredie admits he was “blown away” then “disappointed” by the disgraced socialist MSP.

McCredie plays Alan McCombes in the piece, the man who spent two decades as Sheridan’s closest political advisor and friend, and confesses that he was mesmerised by Sheridan’s charisma, energy and oratory in his drama student days, before his opinion flipped following Sheridan’s spectacular fall from grace.

“I met Tommy when I was a student at RSAMD. He came to an anti-student loans meeting at the STUC building in Bath Street,” recalls McCredie.

“All of us drama students were blown away by him. As he made his speech, we all looked up at him and said ‘Wow, he’s good.’

“He had the bravado, the energy – he was amazing. He was great company. And then, when the SSP came about, I voted for him – not the SSP – but for Tommy.

“I reckoned here was a man with a strong belief system. He stood for something. And more importantly, he felt real, unlike so many other Scots politicians, who are little more than glorified councillors.

“His fall from grace was a real disappointment. He offered a lot in terms of a dissenting voice. And this change in fortune really is the stuff of biographical plays.”

I, Tommy, written by Rab C Nesbitt creator Ian Pattison, is every bit as dramatic as any murderous Taggart episode, reckons McCredie. But it’s strictly not a “hatchet job” on Sheridan, he insists.

“Everything in the play is on public record. And there’s a section which highlights the good that Tommy did.

“But it’s also an opportunity to look at the absurdities of his story. And Tommy has certainly contributed to that.

“You only have to listen to the malapropisms he offered up in his quotes.

Des McLean plays Sheridan in the piece, which has been described as “not so much The West Wing as D Wing”.

“The play is certainly going to be fun. It’s not scenes and scenes of QCs talking.”

Despite Sheridan’s insistence that he won’t be going to the play, McCredie reiterated that he’s welcome to come and see it.

“I could understand why Tommy would have concerns about it. It’s his life that’s up there on stage.

“And the play does feature Gail and Tommy’s mother, Alice. So anyone would be at least curious to see how their world is represented.

“This play has already been voted Number 2 in the Fringe Festival Must See Shows. And will Tommy be unhappy about that? I don’t know. What I do know is that he will be welcome to come and see it.”

• I, Tommy, Gilded 
Balloon, Teviot, until August 27, 3.15pm, £14-£16, www.edfringe.com