King of Scotland
Tommy McMillan is "as thick as shite, an ugly wee bastard and as common as muck". He is also 28 years unemployed, which makes him an ideal candidate for a job with the department of social inclusion. What better poster boy for a progressive government ministry than a man plucked from the ranks of the long-term unemployed?
Thus in Iain Heggie's free reworking of Gogol's Diary of a Madman, McMillan becomes a satirical thorn in the side of an establishment that likes the platitudinous headlines about social cohesion rather more than the reality of mixing with the lower orders. Told entirely from McMillan's perspective, the monologue is the scabrous view of an outsider looking in. He is convinced he has been welcomed into mainstream life, but the evidence suggests otherwise.
His case is not strengthened by his behaviour. What start off like surreal digressions – such as his whimsical belief in talking dogs – become the warped fantasies of a deranged mind. He is delusional enough to misinterpret a politically motivated greeting from an MSP as an invitation to become king, a misunderstanding that emphasises the gap between the haves and have-nots.
Despite actor Jonathan Watson's credentials as a comic performer and his feel for the Glasgow patter, he shows particular sensitivity to the portrayal of mental illness. He has a slightly-too-big suit and walks as if the hanger's still in it – a man in need of our sympathy.
It is a touching interpretation, but it means the production – directed by the playwright – is muted as comedy and too ribald for serious drama.
© Mark Fisher 2011
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