Premier performance: Gordon Brown's fall from power inspires new play

Alice Jones' Arts Diary

An hour and a quarter trapped in a darkened room with a ranting Gordon Brown - it sounds like Tony Blair’s worst nightmare. It’s also the premise for a new play, The Confessions of Gordon Brown, which previews at London’s White Bear Theatre next week ahead of a month-long run at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

“The inspiration for the play came from people talking about Brown as a Shakespearean tragic hero, but no-one could say which one”, its writer, Kevin Toolis tells me. “He’s a little Richard II, has the vicious streak of Macbeth, a touch of the madness of Lear and is as indecisive as Hamlet.”

The monologue, “neither hagiography nor hatchet job”, apparently, focusses on what Brown has been doing in Kirkcaldy since his fall from power.  “He’s our greatest failure as Prime Minister in 200 years”, says Toolis, a former parliamentary journalist. “In that he was potentially a great man.” He spoke to Brown’s inner circle including Ed Balls, Damian McBride and Douglas Alexander for the script.

“It wasn’t easy. Some of them lied to me. And I wouldn’t say Ed Balls was particularly forthcoming. But his failure to confirm things I knew to be true was intriguing in itself. Brown simply had a mesmerising power over his court.”

Brown will be played by Ian Grieve, a Scottish theatre actor, in the one-man show. “The problems is, no British actor is as famous as Gordon Brown”, Toolis says. “So I just looked for someone who had the same demonic energy.”

The Confessions of Gordon Brown, 18 to 22 June, White Bear Theatre, London SE1 (020 7793 9193; www.whitebeartheatre.co.uk);   31 July to 26 August, The Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh (0131 556 6550; www.edfringe.com)

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