I Am Thomas


Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh


I Am Thomas is a true ensemble piece, in production as well as performance. The list of those involved in its creation is very long (Told By An Idiot, Simon Armitage, Iain Johnstone, National Theatre Scotland, the Royal Lyceum Edinburgh, Liverpool’s Playhouse and Everyman) and it shows: this is an eclectic and dynamic mix of music and drama, a triumph of collaboration, devised theatre at its best.

It tells the tale of Thomas Aikenhead, a young Edinburgh student who, in 1696, was the last person in Scotland, to be hanged for the crime of blasphemy. Lurching appealingly between the past and the present, Aikenhead’s story is told though a series of vignettes, presenting him as a pub singer and – at one point – as Jesus Christ himself. Each member of the cast takes on the central role, the changes signified by a simple ‘I am Thomas’ slogan emblazoned on jackets and T-shirts, so that we are never in any doubt as to who is playing him. This helps, of course, to underline the ‘I am Spartacus/Je suis Charlie’ message already highlighted by the play’s title, and brings the focus – the importance of the right to free speech – into sharp relief.

The performances are uniformly strong: the cast are all musically adept, playing a range of instruments, and singing beautifully. The lyrics are witty, the music sprightly and engaging. It’s funny and warm – and tragic too. The props are deliciously silly and inventive, and the costuming a marvel of 1970s theme party kitsch. All in all, it’s really rather good.

Just one thing: what’s a prehistoric heron got to do with anything?

4.6 stars

Susan Singfield

One comment

  1. Thank you for coming to watch. The Heron is a theatre device used for the story. Herons are known for ‘carrying things back home’ and mystically this is used in the show as ‘bringing back the story of Thomas Aikenhead’ which was in a way swept under the carpet. And consequently when Herons are flying above the water they form their wings in a way to remove glare from the water so as to see the fish they wish to hunt – and so this is used as the device in the same way with uncovering the Aikenhead tragedy….

    The Heron is not a character in the play. Its mystically woven as an outsider bringing a story…


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