Doubting Thomas

doubtingthomas

Former enforcer Thomas McCrudden gives a compelling performance

Summerhall (Venue 26)
19:20
Aug 21, 23-28
1 hour 10 minutes

Thomas McCrudden was a Glassgow enforcer. This is the story of his journey from that through prison to performer. It’s a brutal and sometimes bleak tale that does not pull punches in any way.

At the start the audience is told that the play will take us “on a journey, to a place and world that that times may feel uncomfortable to them”. It certainly delivers on that promise.

You can feel the tension and anger in Thomas as scenes depict what he describes as his addiction to violence. Yet Doubting Thomas has a message of hope. Thomas when a prison mentor tells a fellow inmate to take off his mask. What does he mean by that? Thomas has said:

” I was acting…all of my life I have been trapped in roles that I did not want…I want you to show this…I will do anything on a stage to show what I did and went through to get people too understand that in people like me, people they call monsters…there is still a child, in me, a scarred child…even when others were crying, begging me to stop hurting them, I was still this child. When I was growing up I was not given any love and that created a man, that was like a monster, I had no empathy, no care for others…I couldn’t, I was alive, but dead inside. I have seen people dying in front of me, bleeding to death, and I have stepped over them because it was not me, I was cold and heartless.”

The play has a strong social message that asks us not to turn our backs and look away from the ‘lost boys’. It clearly states that bad social conditions breed crime: “when your’re born into poverty, you don’t stand a chance.” Doubting Thomas is a plea for wider society not to give up on or abandon individuals. At no point, however, does Doubting Thomas seek to duck the need for individual responsibility.

The central performance from McCrudden is compelling. Despite the aggression and anger you can see a vulnerability. His performance is nuanced as he switches from rage to Glasgow banter and edged humour. Despite the seriousness of the subject matter and theme Doubting Thomas has lines and scenes that had the audience laughing!

The supporting cast show Thomas with his girlfiend, his criminal sidekicks and with a prison counsellor. All serve to throw light on what has made him the man he is and are good performances in their own right. They show also how some ‘friendships’ can reinforce destructive behaviour. A scene I found particularly telling was when one ‘friend’ sought to reinvolve Thomas in crime after his release from prison and took one (of only two) pot noodles and £1.60 (of only £2.50 he had) for a bus fare. He would have taken more if Thomas had allowed it!

Hat tip to Harry Mulligan in a carefully understated depiction of the prison counsellor.

Doubting Thomas is a show with humanity. It doesn’t seek to hide or excuse what McCrudden did. It seeks to explain it and show how positive change can be achieved against the stacked odds that our society gives to many. Although it’s emotionally demanding at times the humour and the positive message shine through. Go see it!

Five stars

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

Cast: Thomas Mccrudden, Dale Joseph Duffy (Antique Specialist), John Riley (Cats and Dogs), William Clelland (Old Prison Lag), Lynn Lynne Killin (Thomas’ Mrs) and Harry Mulligan (Psychotherapist).

Editorial note: Since his release from prison, Thomas has worked in a mentoring capacity as well as advising professional bodies including the UK Government and the Scottish Prison Service. He is also one of the founding members of the registered charity ‘Positive Prisons/Positive Futures’.

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