The Confessions of Gordon Brown
POLITICAL journalist Kevin Toolis turns playwright to give us the ultimate insight into the last Labour Prime Minister, taking us not just behind closed doors, but into the mind of Gordon Brown.
It is hardly the most flattering of portraits. As Brown waits to begin his first meeting of the day at an unnaturally early hour, Toolis’s monologue presents us with a man whose quick temper masks his own deep insecurities and the growing knowledge that he has lost the trust of his country and his party.
The script finds plenty of targets for Brown’s biting humour: the Tories, Alex Salmond, Brown’s home town of Kirkcaldy, and perhaps above all Brown’s so called party colleagues from Alastair Darling’s eyebrows to David Milliband’s brother — "What is Ed doing?" the PM muses at one point — and, of course, Tony Blair.
Amid the jokes there are flashes of deeper emotion, even if the indignation seems to be more Toolis’s than Brown’s, but the rugby accident that left Brown with a detached retina and a legacy of near blindness is sympathetically and movingly handled.
The script does not talk down to the audience, crediting them with the intelligence to cotton on to the in-jokes and subtler references even though some of the language can be brutally blunt and usually involves some fruity description of one of Brown’s opponents.
Yet there remains a feeling that you leave the theatre without much more of an insight into what makes Brown tick then when you went in, this in truth being less of a confession and more a run of bitter anecdotes.
10 or even 20 minutes might have been shaved off the running time without losing any meat from the play, but all credit to Billy Hartman for keeping the attention with a fine performance that hints at the loneliness of the man on the throne.
With a wig and his native Scottish accent making him unrecognisable as his Emmerdale character Terry, he captured the complexities of the man in a compelling display of solo acting.