How we were Banned by the Labour Party
‘I always knew The Confessions of Gordon Brown would be a controversial play but I never expected the Labour Party would try to ban us.
The ban against the play arose as we prepared to stage the Confessions during the September annual Labour Party conference in Brighton.
We approached the organisers to advertise in the Labour conference magazine – that is sent to every one of the 10,000 delegates. Initally our advert for the play was eagerly accepted and we were even offered a 25% discount on a 1/8 page advert. But then overnight, presumably after talks with Ed Miliband’s office or someone high up, we were summarily told all 1/8 page slots were now full. When we offered to pay for a quarter page advert we were informed the whole magazine was now full unless we paid £10,000s for a single page normally bought by nuclear power companies or rich unions like Unite. A sum simply beyond the resources of a theatre production company.
Behind the thin pretence, this Labour party ban is a disgraceful almost childish act of censorship reeking both of a Stalinist mind set and gutless political cowardice. Was there something in The Confessions that Labour’s high command feared would catch the conscience of the party leadership? Or their delegates?
Thankfully in a democracy political parties don’t get to ban playwrights and plays. Like Banquo, the Confessions of Gordon Brown did indeed return to the conference feast at the Old Courtroom Theatre in Brighton. We filled our theatre night after night.
Dozens of Labour MPs, including former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, and hundreds of Labour party members have since come to see the play and savour our version of their former leader on stage. And judge the play for themselves.
Ban or no ban this show will go on ,’ – Kevin Toolis
BroadwayBaby.com, Saturday 9th August 2014
Gordon Brown was, according to the blurb for this show, our greatest failing as a Prime Minister in 200 years. I’m not too sure what the meter used for such a claim is but, luckily for Fringe audiences and unlike the enraged Prime Minister that nobody wanted, this show is a triumph. Read more here
The Telegraph, Thursday 5th June 2014
Sympathy for the Devil
Are we in a forgiving mood yet? A couple of evenings a week, and at 3pm on Wednesdays, Gordon Brown is to be found on a West End stage ruminating about the art of leadership, an art he proved so lamentably – perhaps even laughably – deficient in, despite years of battling his way to premier position.
Maybe I’m turning soft, or at least am less irate now that the worst effects of the recession Brown helped usher in have subsided. But watching New Labour’s fallen idol, as imagined by the Scottish journalist Kevin Toolis and forcefully incarnated by the actor Ian Grieve, I felt odd twinges of sympathy for the devil. Read more here
The Express, Friday 6th June 2014
The Fragility of a Former PM
It’s all about keeping up appearances. “You can’t be a leader without hair, height and teeth” proclaims the beleaguered PM Gordon Brown, who was blessed with all three attributes.
It offers a clue to the inner fragility of a man whose doubts about his fitness for purpose are expressed in a stream of invective and self-flagellating reflection.
Written and directed by former journalist-cum-documentary maker Kevin Toolis, this one-man show performed by Ian Grieve is a canny, intelligent and often very funny exploration of Britain’s least successful Prime Minister and Labour Party pooper. Read more here
The Stage, Thursday 5th June 2014
“A superb one-man show… cracking coalition of writer Kevin Toolis and actor Ian Grieve.”
Our former prime minister is given a tragedian’s tribute in this one-man production by the cracking coalition of writer Kevin Toolis and actor Ian Grieve.
On the wall behind Gordon Brown (Grieve) hangs a stopped clock. It’s a suitable metaphor, for it looks like the Scottish “bear” of Westminster finally has the time he craved to discuss what can change in this country – though, poignantly, time has now deserted him. Read more here
Theatrecat.com, Thursday 5th June 2014
Ian Grieve is perfect casting: he catches a credible longing, resentment and fury but also idealism and vulnerability. He hints enough at the physicality of Gordon Brown without overdoing the famous angry-fish gaping tic.
We find him in a Westminster office, where the clock is stuck at 5.45 am: waiting for his staff, hammering violently at his laptop as if it were a manual typewriter in long-ago Kircaldy, using that time-stopped moment to express the time he was longing for power, his brief spell in it, the moment of the loss and a delusion of return. Read more here
ThePublicReviews.Com, Friday 6th June 2014
“Profound and moving”
Cynicism about the political process abounds. It is a default attitude that has legitimised the self imposed disenfranchisement of the majority of the potential electorate. Politics and politicians are held in such opprobrium that, ridiculously, they are now being touted as an irrelevance. Those who put their heads above the parapet and become involved are often tarred with the brush that depicts a landscape of deceit, self-serving and corruption. Fuelled by personal ambition they are perceived by so many to be the epitome of everything that is wrong with Government.
This fascinating, at times vitriolic, piece of work both confirms the jaundiced public view whilst also offering a striking example of an individual who might give the lie to the cliché. If we really knew the truth and understood how the world of power and leadership actually worked I suspect it would feel something like this. The play has a confidence, an authority and an authenticity about it that is very persuasive. Read more here
Lord Daniel Finkelstein OBE: The Times
“Insightful, witty, even tragic”
Ian [Grieve] said he had to guess what shouting sounded like, but a friend of mine who was present and knows Brown very well said that it was bang on.
Read more here
The Independent, Wednesday 11th June 2014
Waitrose Weekend, Thursday 5th June 2014
By Quentin Letts
Gordon Brown – remember him? – is brought to the West End stage in all his nail-bitten, brow-beating glory in this short and already-nostalgia-tinged monologue.
Your initial reaction might be ‘why should anyone wish to spend an hour watching an actor play that self-tormented chap who was briefly our Prime Minister?’ Fair question. Hear me out.
The play was written by Kevin Toolis, a man of the Left, so it is not some dreary political attack about events long gone. It is light on policy.
Instead it focuses on the humanity of Gordon Brown’s character and it does so with plenty of comedy and one or two moments of more poignant reflection.
Read more in Waitrose Weekend, available this week, or alternately the full review is available on an ongoing basis via the Waitrose Weekend App
Thursday, 5th June 2014
“The fine actor Ian Grieve embodies Brown”
Chirpy grins didn’t come naturally to Gordon Brown. During his years as prime minister from 2007 to 2010 it looked excruciatingly as if he was being told by PR gurus to act perky and crack smiles for the media rather than be himself.
Of course, the real-life ex-Labour leader is not, in person, performing The Confessions of Gordon Brown, a monologue that’s now filling midweek slots at the West End’s Ambassadors Theatre before returning to the Edinburgh Fringe (where it premiered last summer). Read more here
The Guardian, Thursday 5th June 2014
Grieve’s performance captures Brown’s well-documented mixture of moral seriousness and high temper. Read more here
The Sunday Times Culture Magazine, Sunday 1st June 2014
Power, Intrigue and Politics!
Read more here!
Edinburgh Festival 2013: The Confessions of Gordon Brown, Pleasance Courtyard, review
Dominic Cavendish enjoys Ian Grieve’s convincing and at times chilling portrayal of the former Labour leader.
The venue is “Pleasance Beneath” – a basement, a bunker, a place of darkness. Ideal for an audience with Gordon Brown, a theatrical reckoning that has been long – too long – in coming, but now arrives in the form of a sleek, bleakly amusing monologue, written by the Scottish journalist and film-maker Kevin Toolis, that is destined to be one of the big talking points of this year’s Fringe.We behold Ian Grieve’s convincingly lookalike, unnervingly sound-alike Brown, wearing a suit, red tie and creepy grin, at the point in his story when power still remains in his grasp but hope is beating a hasty retreat.
He’s at No 10 before the 2010 election, in a moment of administrative calm after dawn, some way off 6am. Restless, impatient, prowling, he waits for his staff. And confides in us with forced amicability; a quick lesson from the wise – a primer in the art of leadership from a man belatedly realising he’s not a very good one. Read more here
Confessions of Gordon Brown drills right into the soul of former PM By QUENTIN LETTS Left-wing writer Kevin Toolis is creating a stir with his hour-long portrait of Gordon Brown. In this monologue, the former PM (played brilliantly by Ian Grieve) frets and foams in his Downing Street office at 5.40am one day. The material is better than mere impersonation or satire. It drills into the soul of the man, and here is my one cause for hesitation. Mr Brown is, after all, still very much with us, and some of the psycho-analysis is pretty raw. We see a leader tortured by envy of the English. Remembering Napoleon Bonaparte, he sticks a hand inside his jacket, just like Bony. Read more here
Why did Gordon Brown struggle to find success as Prime Minister? Watch the clip from Scottish TV: [youtube]http://youtu.be/HQdDQKuX1jc[/youtube]
Daily Politics Show, April 1st 2014, The Importance of Image - Can Baldies Do It?
The importance of image (including their hair, or lack of) to the success of a political leader is one theme of the satirical play The Confessions of Gordon Brown. Jo Coburn spoke to creator Kevin Toolis, John McTernan, who used to advise Tony Blair on political strategy, and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett about the image of leading politicians. Watch the clip here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=856268917723301
Edinburgh Evening News, March 11th 2014: Billy Hartman stars in The Confessions of Gordon Brown
FOR 16 years, Billy Hartman was a regular in living rooms across the UK.
As Terry Woods in Emmerdale, we watched as he went through the usual gamut of soap excess, from extra-marital affairs, to being suspected of murder, only to be killed off, a hero, as he tried to rescue others from a fire, in 2011. Read more: http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/what-s-on/theatre/billy-hartman-stars-in-confessions-of-gordon-brown-1-3335770
Scotsman, March 10 2014: The Confessions a Great Scottish export Brian Monteith
Scotsman writer Brian Monteith on the return of The Confessions to the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh http://www.scotsman.com/news/brian-monteith-giving-up-britishness-1-3334267
Huffington Post, March 4 2014 : Box Sets, drama and the state of political play
Writer Kevin Toolis asks what TV political drama series like House of Cards and political plays tell us about the state of politics. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/kevin-toolis/what-does-drama-and-the-box-series-tell-us-about-the-state-of-politics_b_4895265.html
BBC Culture Studio with Janice Forsyth, 28 February 2014
Listen to Director Kevin Toolis and actor Billy Hartman talk to BBC Scotland Culture Studio host Janice Forsyth about the play at 25.50 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03w056s …
Edinburgh Evening News: Former Emmerdale star Billy Hartman to play Gordon Brown, 25th February 2014
Entertainment Focus : The Political Hit opening in the West EndThe political hit by Kevin Toolis comes to the Ambassadors Theatre from June 3rd – July 31st.
Public Reviews: Smash Hit Returns to Traverse in Edinburgh, 25th February 2014
Edinburgh University alumnus Kevin Toolis explains why he wrote the play 25th February 2014
Edinburgh University alumnus, writer and filmmaker, Kevin Toolis explains why he was inspired to write a play about another famous alumnus, former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. Read more: http://www.ed.ac.uk/alumni/services/news/news/kevin-toolis
VRN Presenter Nominated for Radio Award, 10th Jan 2014
‘Anas Hassan, who is one of the station’s presenters, interviewed Emmy-nominated screenwriter Kevin Toolis about his much talked about play ‘The Confessions of Gordon Brown’. Read more: http://www.fifetoday.co.uk/what-s-on/leisure-time/vrn-presenter-nominated-for-radio-award-1-3261435
Channel 4 News, 22nd Sept 2013
The Confessions of Gordon Brown on Channel 4 News Watch here
Today Programme, 23rd Sept 2013
Today Programme (BBC Radio): Kevin Toolis: Play reflects ‘failures’ of Gordon BrownThe play Confessions of Gordon Brown has transferred to Brighton from the Edinburgh Festival, but the Labour Party have banned it from being advertised in the main conference brochure.Gordon Brown pollster Deborah Mattinson told the Today programme’s Justin Webb, “the play shows what the public expects of politicians”. Director Kevin Toolis said the play was about “our greatest failures at prime minister in 200 years. “He had incredibly positive qualities… yet in office he was an abysmal failure.” Listen here
Daily Mail, 23rd Sept 2013
Gordon has the last laugh
by ANDREW PIERCE, 22 September 2013
Revenge is sweet for the producers of The Confessions Of Gordon Brown. The remarkable one-man show, starring Ian Grieve, was banned from the Brighton party conference arena by the Labour leadership. It is playing to packed crowds in the Old Courtroom Theatre, a five-minute walk from the conference centre, in a brief visit from its home at London’s Trafalgar Studios. In the play, the Brown character brings the house down when he says: ‘Ed Miliband. I wonder what he’s up to. ‘You never hear from Ed these days. It was a mistake for Ed to become an MP. He should have stayed as chief geek.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2429596/ANDREW-PIERCE-Labours-red-faces-Royal-Mail.html#ixzz2fj9sdyCo
Fabian Society, 20th Sept 2013Review: The Confessions of Gordon Brown
By Paul Richards,The first and most pressing thing to say is that Ian Grieve’s portrayal of Gordon Brown is uncannily, scarily, astonishingly lifelike. I don’t mean Grieve does a good impression of Gordon Brown, or an amusing caricature. I mean it’s like Gordon Brown is physically present in the room. The dark suit, white shirt with silver cufflinks, black shoes and socks, and skew-whiff lilac tie are precisely accurate. They may as well have been lifted from Brown’s wardrobe when he wasn’t home Full Article
The Guardian, 21st Aug 2013
Is Ed Miliband heading for the same grisly fate as Gordon Brown?
By Kevin Toolis
The writer of a new play about the former prime minister’s time in office says it is already too late for the current Labour leader to avoid a similar ignominious end
Extract: After the 2010 election I went round Brown’s inner court and spoke to his closest allies – Ed Balls, Douglas Alexander, Damian McBride, Spencer Livermore, Stan Greenberg and Deborah Mattinson – to understand why Gordon Brown was our greatest failure as prime minister in 200 years.
The result is a play, The Confessions of Gordon Brown, that had its world premiere at the Edinburgh fringe and opens at the Trafalgar Studios in London next month. We are also putting on the play as this year’s party conference. But when we tried to advertise in the official conference magazine, party leaders – after initially agreeing to accept our advert – reversed their decision and refused to carry an advertisement anywhere, apart from in a “prestige” slot, costing over £6,000. That’s a position, and a price level, usually reserved for powerful trade unions or companies in the nuclear industry.
Independent. 20th Sept 2013
The McPoison papers: Confessions of rogue Labour spin doctor Damian McBride laid bare in memoir by James Cusick, 20th Sept 2013 “Kevin Toolis, whose play The Confessions of Gordon Brown is currently at London’s Trafalgar Theatre, said he talked to McBride as part of his play’s research. “As a fanatical member of Brown’s inner circle, working for ‘the boss’ was all-consuming for Damian. He had to fend off enemies and conspire with so-called press friends to further Brown’s premiership. And it all took its toll on his health.” Read full article
Conservative Home, 19th Sept 2013
Paul Goodman: Gordon Confesses – or: an Hour in Gordon Brown’s Hell
By Paul Goodman, 19 Sept 2013
The Confessions of Gordon Brown, Kevin Toolis’s window into the seventh circle of the former Prime Minister’s soul, has been well-reviewed – both in the sense of positively and thoroughly. I came to the play’s run at the Trafalgar Studios with a preconception of it. Toolis is a man of the Left, or was when I knew him: I remember him telling journalists around a dinner table in Belfast that they should have a view on Northern Ireland’s troubles, and not just an eye for the facts. Read full article here: http://conservativehome.blogs.com/thecolumnists/2013/09/from-paulgoodmanch-.html
Guardian, 17th Sept 2013
“[Michael] Gove himself [MP and Secretary of State for Education]… made his way to Kevin Toolis’s comedic anatomy of a prime ministerial meltdown, The Confessions of Gordon Brown, now playing in London. And his verdict: the play could have been 5% more sympathetic to Brown; but only 5%. One of Brown’s former speechwriters, who was also in the audience, said the play was good but that it couldn’t convey the full “tragedy” of the ill-fated Labour leader. Read full article: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/sep/17/hugh-muir-diary-royal-family-wonga
Sky News, 15th Sept 2013
On Sunday 15th September The Confessions writer Kevin Toolis and actor Ian Grieve appeared on Sky News.
Below is the associated article which appears on the Sky News Website:
Gordon Brown Portrayed As Macbeth Of Politics
16th Sept 2013
His rise to power is akin to the ascension to the throne of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, says the writer of a play about the ex-PM. A new one-man comedy-show aims to shed light on the personality behind former prime minister Gordon Brown. The 62-year-old, who took over the leadership of the Labour Party from Tony Blair in 2007, has largely stayed out of the public eye since he left Downing Street three years ago. But a new play – The Confessions Of Gordon Brown – has thrust the politician back into the spotlight. Read full article: http://news.sky.com/story/1142017/gordon-brown-portrayed-as-macbeth-of-politics
The Gay UK, 11th Sept 2013
REVIEW: The Confessions Of Gordon Brown, Trafalgar Studios
By Becky Harper
11th September 2013
Fresh from the Edinburgh fringe, this hit one man show has transferred to the prestigious Trafalgar Studios in London. This satirical look at the reign of Gordon Brown as leader of the Labour party is both laugh out loud and moving in equal parts. Written by Emmy award winning Kevin Toolis, the script swiftly moves between discussion of Brown the public figure and Brown the man. Read full article: http://www.thegayuk.com/#/magazine/4574334751/THEATRE-REVIEW-The-Confessions-Of-Gordon-Brown-Trafalgar-Studios/6512268
The Upcoming, 6th Sept 2013
After a successful debut at Edinburgh Festival, sharp new play The Confessions of Gordon Brown has opened in London. This one-man show explores the dark and convoluted secrets that come with being prime minister with incredible insight and wit. Kevin Toolis is the writer and director of this production, and he has managed to do something remarkable: create a scathing political satire that can be enjoyed by anyone, not just those well-acquainted with politics. The comedy is done in such a way that you need only a basic understanding of Gordon Brown’s career to appreciate it, though of course the more you know, the better. Toolis’ writing is sharp and funny, and he is not afraid to push the boundaries of political correctness. Read full article here: http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/09/06/the-confessions-of-gordon-brown-at-trafalgar-studios-theatre-review/
Daily Mail, 16th August 2013
Confessions of Gordon Brown drills right into the soul of former PM
By QUENTIN LETTS
Left-wing writer Kevin Toolis is creating a stir with his hour-long portrait of Gordon Brown. In this monologue, the former PM (played brilliantly by Ian Grieve) frets and foams in his Downing Street office at 5.40am one day. The material is better than mere impersonation or satire. It drills into the soul of the man, and here is my one cause for hesitation. Mr Brown is, after all, still very much with us, and some of the psycho-analysis is pretty raw. We see a leader tortured by envy of the English. Remembering Napoleon Bonaparte, he sticks a hand inside his jacket, just like Bony. Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/reviews/article-2395249/Confessions-Gordon-Brown-drills-right-soul-PM.html#ixzz2cDpge3F4
New Statesman, 16th Aug 2013
At the Edinburgh Fringe: Engels! The Karl Marx Story and The Confessions of Gordon BrownKarl Marx and Gordon Brown unravel on stage in two political gems at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. BY STEPHEN BRASHERIf Marx is presented as a man only too keen to take credit for other people’s work, Kevin Toolis’s The Confessions of Gordon Brown portrays a man not very keen on letting anyone else do anything at all. Ian Grieve gives a towering performance as Brown seemingly frozen in time at twenty to six in the morning, waiting for his staff to arrive at six, so he can shout at them. He is fixated by the example of his father “John Brown, minister…” and the motto of his old school Kircaldy High: “I strive to my utmost”. If there are one too many references to his hatred for Tony Blair and Cherie – “that couple – I think we all know who I mean” – it doesn’t distract too much from a portrait of a man who criticises others for not having fixed principles (and for the apparently even more heinous crime of being bald in politics), but doesn’t really seem to have many himself, aside from fulfilling his manifest destiny to become prime minister.
Read full article:
The Telegraph, 12th Aug 2013At an Edinburgh Fringe performance of The Confessions of Gordon Brown, Nick Brown, the former agriculture minister, dominated the front row with his girth – and mirth. Sadly, the theme of the piece, of being yesterday’s man, applied to him more than the subject of the play. During the play, Ian Grieve, as the hapless former prime minister, lays into the buffoonery of the Blair era cabinet – and defies the audience to name the then defence secretary. A poignant silence in the auditorium ensued. “Geoff Hoon,” muttered Nick Brown, finally, with hardly anybody aware of his own identity. “You are an important man, and here is your badge of honour,” said Grieve, handing over a button, not knowing of the recipient either. Read full article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/10236200/Ernest-Hemingway-never-wrote-drunk-says-granddaughter-Mariel-Hemingway.html
The Scotsman, 13th Aug 2013
Kevin Toolis: Political history sees only leaders by Kevin Toolis It is a truism that all political careers end in failure. The real truth is far worse: the ultimate destiny of all those who take their seats at the Cabinet table, except the leader, is one big absolutely forgettable nothing. They are simply forgotten. As a tease to the audience in The Confessions of Gordon Brown, Ian Grieve, who plays Brown, asks the audience to name five members of Blair’s first 1997 Cabinet. No-one can. In particular he asks the name of the key minister in one of the most historic decision points of Blair’s premiership. The answers, if they come at all, are invariably wrong, except for the other day when a vaguely familiar face in the front row shouted out the right answer. It was former chief whip Nick Brown, and a senior member of the Blair government at the time. Our fictive leader duly awarded him a tin badge. Read full article: http://www.scotsman.com/news/kevin-toolis-political-history-sees-only-leaders-1-3042616
Daily Mail, 11th Aug 2013
The tragedy of Gordon Brown – the forgotten Macbeth of British politics: A withering portrayal by Left-wing writer who turned ex-PM’s failure into a stage play by Kevin Toolis Nothing in his premiership so became him as the leaving of it. Who could fail to be moved when Gordon Brown walked out of Downing Street holding the hands of his two sons, with his wife Sarah, his head held high to go to the Palace to resign? Or those last few honest, emotion-charged words on the doorstep of No 10 summarising his own troubled time in office. ‘I have been privileged to learn much about the very best in human nature and a fair amount too about its frailties – including my own.’ But he was a failure as Prime Minister. I would even argue that he was our worst in 200 years. The reasons why this superbly capable, highly moral and in many ways thoroughly admirable man crashed as PM are psychologically fascinating on a personal level and profoundly important for British democracy. I set out to find out why. I began by interviewing those of Brown’s inner circle who would speak to me, including Ed Balls, Douglas Alexander, Damian McBride, his pollsters Deborah Mattinson and Stan Greenberg, his head of policy Spencer Livermore. The result is a play, The Confessions Of Gordon Brown, which has its world premiere at this year’s Edinburgh Festival before transferring to London’s West End in September. Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2389150/The-tragedy-Gordon-Brown–forgotten-Macbeth-British-politics-A-withering-portrayal-Left-wing-writer-turned-ex-PMs-failure-stage-play.html#ixzz2beLBNHBE
Broadway Baby, 10th Aug 2013
Prime Minister’s Secrets Time by Alice Longhurst
It’s 5:40am by the clock on the office wall and Gordon Brown has some secrets to share before his first governmental meeting of the day. He’s statuesque and statesmanlike, with his red tie carefully tucked into his trousers and he speaks in a smooth, measured Scottish accent. He reaches out to shake hands in the front row of an audience which is part confidant, part eavesdropper, listening in on this monologue of rambling thoughts and memories. He ponders how Napoleon’s final days resonate with the end of his long-awaited premiership before flicking back to his younger years in politics which honed a sense of destiny and determination to rise to power. We constantly veer back to several sore points; bitterness at so many years spent in Tony Blair’s shadow, his politician’s image obsession with height (he’s taller than Blair), having a full head of hair and the lofty conviction that he alone saved the (financial) world. Read full article: http://www.broadwaybaby.com/listing.php?id=21683
Fourth Wall, 10th Aug 2013Edinburgh Reviews: Confessions of Gordon Brown (Pleasance)A riveting solo performance steeped in humour and melancholy. One-person shows are always big at Edinburgh, and this combination mixed with politics is proving a big draw at Pleasance, with a rather older, more traditional crowd than many other shows. Confessions of Gordon Brown is a riveting solo performance steeped in humour and melancholy. A compelling and expertly executed imagined monologue of Brown’s in the early hours before the 2010 election. What it lacks in real ‘confessions’ it more than makes up for in a bleak tale of rapidly fading hope and self-belief.
The Times, 8th Aug 2013The Confessions of Gordon Brown, Pleasance by Allan RadcliffeOne of the first things that strikes you about this one-man comedy is the uncanny physical resemblance between the actor Ian Grieve and the former Prime Minister. Grieve has nailed the Dear Leader’s tendency to talk over the heads of his audience, as well as his disconcerting habit of grinning at inopportune moments. Gordon Brown would no doubt have approved of the actor’s upright comportment and full head of hair. After all, as the great man himself puts it, the British public would never allow themselves to be led by “a baldy”.This monologue, by the writer and director Kevin Toolis, is structured around extracts from the speech that Brown made when he succeeded Tony Blair as PM. The rest, a kind of long dark night of the soul in which the now ex-Labour leader reflects on his path to power and the obstacles he encountered when he got to the top, is pure speculation. Still, one can’t help feeling that Toolis has the measure of Brown’s fragile ego and tragic lack of self-awareness.The story takes in Brown’s upbringing as a son of the Manse, his relationships with fellow politicians, including his obsessive rivalry with Blair, and the recapitalisation of the banks that temporarily halted his slide in the polls. In his bumptious reflections on leadership he’s withering about the competition (William Hague, Alistair Darling and “Ed Milly” all get it in the neck).Brown’s slow rise and rapid downfall have been compared to Shakespearean tragedy, but Toolis’s monologue is more akin to Alan Bennett’s Talking Headsthan Macbeth, with all the layers of irony and self-delusion lurking just beneath the surface. The piece loses momentum and becomes a little repetitive towards the end, but it’s held together nicely by a clever — and ultimately sympathetic — performance from Grieve.Read more: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/arts/stage/edinburgh-festival/article3836723.ece
The Telegraph, 7th Aug 2013
Edinburgh Festival 2013: ‘Gordon Brown had the malevolence of Macbeth, the madness of King Lear’ The Confessions of Gordon Brown is theatre’s first proper examination of the former PM. And, as writer Kevin Toolis tells Dominic Cavendish, it’s the man’s flaws that make him interesting By Dominic Cavendish, 07 Aug 2013 One of the most shameful omissions in our booming new writing culture during the New Labour years was any noteworthy theatrical examination of Gordon Brown. Where left-leaning playwrights were happy to grapple with government foreign policy, the domestic agenda was given a curiously wide berth. Blair was the bogeyman, Brown got off Scot-free. His brooding presence has latterly stalked Peter Morgan’s The Audience, although it was an earlier TV drama, The Deal, also by Morgan, that memorably brought home the long-rumbling rift at the heart of “the project”.
Edinburgh Evening News, 7th Aug 2013by RICHARD FRANKLINIAN Grieve gives a truly riveting solo performance in this witty, pacey and revealing encounter with a Prime Minister of some complexity, not to say complexes. Pleasance Courtyard Kevin Toolis’ informed script leaves you with the feeling that you have been in the presence of a very intelligent man of diverse knowledge, not only of history but also of the ‘intriguing’ side of politics, historical and present day. In this production at the Pleasance Courtyard, Brown emerges as a man of great humanity and high aspiration, but whose temperament cast him as a thoroughly unsuitable candidate for leadership of a nation, his psychological weakness exacerbated by his long wait for the hot seat, due to the duplicity of his former colleague Tony Blair. Unsuitable material to wear the crown he so profoundly coveted and believed was his right, when he finally realised his dream he proceeded to tie the knot on Britain’s bankruptcy, which Blair had begun with the Iraq War. Read full article: http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/what-s-on/theatre-review-confessions-of-gordon-brown-1-3033717
The Telegraph, 3rd August 2013Edinburgh Festival 2013: The Confessions of Gordon Brown, Pleasance Courtyard, review Dominic Cavendish enjoys Ian Grieve’s convincing and at times chilling portrayal of the former Labour leader. The venue is “Pleasance Beneath” – a basement, a bunker, a place of darkness. Ideal for an audience with Gordon Brown, a theatrical reckoning that has been long – too long – in coming, but now arrives in the form of a sleek, bleakly amusing monologue, written by the Scottish journalist and film-maker Kevin Toolis, that is destined to be one of the big talking points of this year’s Fringe.We behold Ian Grieve’s convincingly lookalike, unnervingly sound-alike Brown, wearing a suit, red tie and creepy grin, at the point in his story when power still remains in his grasp but hope is beating a hasty retreat. He’s at No 10 before the 2010 election, in a moment of administrative calm after dawn, some way off 6am. Restless, impatient, prowling, he waits for his staff. And confides in us with forced amicability; a quick lesson from the wise – a primer in the art of leadership from a man belatedly realising he’s not a very good one. Read full article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/edinburgh-festival/10219779/Edinburgh-Festival-2013-The-Confessions-of-Gordon-Brown-Pleasance-Courtyard-review.html
Scotsman, 3rd Aug 2013
Gerry Hassan: Will real Gordon Brown reveal himself GORDON Brown dominated Scottish politics for several decades. Now gone from the stage, he has left only memories and the issue of his legacy. Brown is a fascinating figure – a very public person, but private; moral in his deliberations yet filled with caution; supposedly radical but profoundly conservative. Kevin Toolis’s new play Confessions of Gordon Brown (on at the Pleasance during the Festival) attempts to get inside the mind and psyche of Brown. This is a potent idea and something writers previously explored with Blair, perhaps most notably in The Trial of Tony Blair, where he is seen to be haunted by the ghosts of Iraqi war dead. Read full article: http://www.scotsman.com/news/gerry-hassan-will-real-gordon-brown-reveal-himself-1-3028484
Reuters, 2nd Aug 2013
Shining sun welcomes wacky and wonderful to Edinburgh Fringe By Ian McKenzie Extract: “Scottish writer and director Kevin Toolis brings political satire in “The Confessions of Gordon Brown” with actor Ian Grieve giving an impressively dour performance of the former British prime minister.” Read full article: http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/08/02/entertainment-us-edinburgh-fringe-idINBRE9710TU20130802
Herald, 2nd Aug 2013
Impolitic: is Gordon Brown really Mr Misunderstood? by Andy Bollen, Aug 2nd 2013 The Fringe Festival starts today in Edinburgh. I will be keen to see a one-man play at the Pleasance by Kevin Toolis,The Confessions of Gordon Brown,a tale of ambition, back-stabbing and betrayal, and with a name that always makes me sing the Stranglers song ‘Golden Brown’ (that bit at the end is just me, it’s not in the play). It’s about what happens when you dare to dream and it turns into a complete nightmare, not just a partial nightmare but a complete one. The writer called in Brown supporters Ed Balls, Douglas Alexander and Damian McBride to get the inside track on the former PM’s real personality. Apparently the research worked, it’s receiving rave reviews, and making those who’ve seen it reassess their opinion of Gordon Brown. Read the full article here: http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/viewpoint/impolitic-is-gordon-brown-really-mr-misunderstood.1375445031
The Independent, 2nd Aug 2013
All of these thoughts are ascribed to him by writer and director Kevin Toolis in this well-observed one-man dissection of many of Brown’s real and possible motives. The piece rings with authenticity thanks to Toolis’ obvious familiarity with his subject and an excellent central performance which sees Ian Grieve inhabit our last Prime Minister.
Edinburgh Evening News, 31st JulyWhat if Gordon Brown had narrowly scraped victory in the 2010 General Election and was still Prime Minister?Would there even be a referendum on Scottish independence? Would Gordon Brown have given in so easily to Alex Salmond? And would the Scottish Labour Party have escaped what appear now to be its terminal death throes? Read full article http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/opinion/kevin-toolis-what-if-gordon-brown-had-won-1-3022881
The Independent, 26th July 2013The Confessions of Gordon Brown fringe play: Tony Blair? Don’t worry about him, Gordon, it’s a one-man showShow is a chance to reassess Britain’s least loved PM, writes Jonathan Brown His final walk along Downing Street, hand in hand with his wife and two young sons, was an uncharacteristically human moment in the political life of a Prime Minister who could never convince the British public to love him.How the electorate that scorned him is to be offered the chance to reassess his reputation and be afforded a glimpse into the “dark secrets” of the former Labour leader as his notorious rages, penchant for hair gel and Shakespearean fall from power are laid bare on the stage. Full article: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/news/the-confessions-of-gordon-brown-fringe-play-tony-blair-dont-worry-about-him-gordon-its-a-oneman-show-8734396.html
Total Politics, 26th July
The Confessions is in Total Politics today: Culture picks: From Gordon Brown to Darwinism by Sam Macrory 25.07.2013 The Confessions of Gordon Brown, Written and directed by Kevin Toolis Where did it all go wrong for Gordon Brown? Who does he blame for his downfall? Why did the man who had sought the role of prime minister for so long end up occupying 10 Downing Street for such little time? These questions, asked frequently by journalists and MPs with varying degrees of mischief, are now being posed in a new play: The Confessions of Gordon Brown. Full article: http://www.totalpolitics.com/life/385187/culture-picks-from-gordon-brownto-darwinism.thtml
Scotsman, 24th July
Kevin Toolis: No price to put on passion As the Irish struggle showed, the desire for independence comes from the heart and comes before all else; questions of policy and economic issues are largely irrelevant, writes Kevin Toolis Read full article here: http://www.scotsman.com/news/kevin-toolis-no-price-to-put-on-passion-1-3011477
Huffington Post, 23rd July
In the Huffington Post today an article by The Confessions of Gordon Brown writer Kevin Toolis ‘Is There Anything to Say in Drama About Politics When All the Drama Has Been Carefully Squeezed Out of Real Politics?‘ 23/07/2013 In the olden days before catch up TV the annual Labour and Tory party conferences were guaranteed political barn fests. Revolts amongst the delegates, errant trade union bosses, and pro-hanging would-be Tory MPs were as commonplace as bare breasted women in HBO’s Games of Thrones. Passion and politics mattered. Read full article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/kevin-toolis/is-there-anything-to-say-_b_3638866.html
The Times, 23rd July
Times Diary, TMS 23rd July 2013 FLASH OF GENIUS It is easy for actors to get distracted by the behaviour of their audience . Mobile phones and rustling sweet papers can put you off your stride, but not quite as much as being flashed at. After a stiflingly hot preview of The Confessions of Gordon Brown in London, which transfers to Edinburgh next week, Ian Grieve, who plays the former Prime Minister, was introduced to the audience. “You made my night,” he said to Jemma Churchill, an actress who was recently in Upstairs Downstairs and was sitting in the front row. Ms Churchill had been flapping her maxi-dress in an effort to keep cool and gave Grieve what he called a “Sharon Stone moment”.
Daily Record, 21 July 2013
The Confessions of Gordon Brown writer Kevin Toolis comments on Tony Blair in the middle east yesterday in the Daily Record ‘Tony Blair’s greatest achievement after six years as special envoy to the Middle East? Both sides detest him‘ By Mark Aitken, 21st July 2013 Extract: “Terrorism expert Kevin Toolis said: “The invasion of Iraq was the biggest foreign policy disaster of the post-war period…Toolis, who has written Edinburgh Fringe play The Confessions of Gordon Brown, said history will soon forget Blair’s role as Middle East envoy. He added: “Blair will be just another passing potentate, of which the Middle East has many, from King Herod onwards.” Read the full article here: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/politics/tony-blairs-greatest-achievement-after-2071869
The Courier, 20th July 2013
‘Shakespearean tragic figure’ Gordon Brown subject of new one-man play By Kieran Andrews, 20 July 2013 By switching from describing him as “a great man” to “our greatest failure”, you would be forgiven for thinking Kevin Toolis is confused about Gordon Brown. However, the Emmy-nominated Scots writer and director is sure the complexities of the Fife MP’s time as Prime Minister make him the perfect subject of a one-man play about leadership. Perth-born Ian Grieve plays the Cowdenbeath and Kirkcaldy representative in the show, the Confessions of Gordon Brown, which is running at the Edinburgh Festival next month. Read full article here: http://www.thecourier.co.uk/news/politics/shakespearean-tragic-figure-gordon-brown-subject-of-new-one-man-play-1.113884
Herald Scotland, 16th July
Interview: Kevin Toolis, author of a new play about Gordon Brown. Tuesday 16 July 2013 As tragic heroes go, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s downfall was one of the most public examples of vaulting ambition gone wrong. This is gold dust for drama, which award-winning journalist and filmmaker Kevin Toolis has taken full advantage of in his forthcoming Edinburgh Festival Fringe play, The Confessions Of Gordon Brown. While this solo work, performed by Ian Grieve, is ostensibly about Brown, as Toolis explains there’s a lot going on beyond the purely biographical. Read more on: http://www.heraldscotland.com/arts-ents/stage/interview-kevin-toolis-author-of-a-new-play-about-gordon-brown.21617191
The Times, 16th July 2013
In the Times today: TMS: Times Diary: WAGES OF SPIN “Only a few days after Ed Milliband called for transparency in politics, Labour has slipped back into its old ways of censorship. The makers of a play satirising the last Prime Minister have been told that they will not be allowed to advertise it at the Labour Conference in Brighton. Article: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article3817332.ece The ad they tried to ban!:
Daily Mail, 15th July 2013
ANDREW PIERCE: Labour gets an attack of stage fright PUBLISHED 14 July 2013 “There was a rare appearance by Gordon Brown in the Commons last week, as he made only his third speech since standing down as Prime Minister in 2010. He got to his feet during a 30-minute adjournment debate at the end of the day’s business when MPs raise constituency matters. But the low-profile Brown is set for a starring role during the Labour Party conference in Brighton, despite the best efforts of the Labour leadership not to let anyone know. A new play — The Confessions Of Gordon Brown — is being staged outside the conference zone at The Old Courtroom.”
The Sun, 17th June 2013
‘Play tells tale of PM Gordon’s ‘paranoia’’ By PAUL THORNTON 17th June 2013 GORDON Brown will be portrayed as “obsessive and paranoid” in a new show about his ill-fated spell as Prime Minister. Read more: http://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/scotsol/homepage/news/4971939/Play-tells-tale-og-PM-Gordons-paranopia.html
The Independent 13th June 2013
‘Premier performance: Gordon Brown’s Fall From Power Inspire’s New Play’ by Alice Jones 13/6/13 “Kevin Toolis tells me,,,”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.”” For the full article go to: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/news/premier-performance-gordon-browns-fall-from-power-inspires-new-play-8657628.html
Whitehall 1212, June 2013Whitehall 1212 : Torcuil Crichton’s Westminster blog. Wednesday, 19 June 2013‘The leader will see you now’Here’s Kevin Toolis, the writer and director of “The Confessions of Gordon Brown”, opening the door on his show last night at at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington.The play is previewing in London before opening at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August, where I predict it will be a surefire hit.So, no review here, save to say that say that Ian Grieve is the very embodiment of the former Prime Minister in the one man show. His opening night, in his first major stage role in 17 years, was a tour de force.Read the full post here: http://whitehall1212.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/the-leader-will-see-you-now.html?m=1
The Telegraph, 12th June 2013
‘ A week’s a long time in political drama’ By Dominic Cavendish 12 Jun 2013 “Kevin Toolis’s imminent, well-researched examination of the previous administration The Confessions of Gordon Brown, coming to the Edinburgh Fringe” Read the full article here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/theatre-news/10116754/A-weeks-a-long-time-in-political-drama.html
Fife Today, 13th June 2013
‘ Confessions of a PM – set for Fringe debut’ 13/6/13 “In office, Brown struggled with himself and the pace of decision-making required of the office of British Prime Minister.” Read the full article here: http://www.fifetoday.co.uk/news/local-headlines/confessions-of-a-pm-set-for-fringe-debut-1-2965027
The Independent, 12th June 2013
‘Andy McSmith’s Diary: Why we have one good reason for being thankful for Gordon Brown…’ by Andy McSmith 12/6/13 Poor old Gordon Brown. Scottish television has just shown an extract from a play by Kevin Toolis, The Confessions of Gordon Brown, that will have its premiere at the Edinburgh Festival. Its premise is that Gordon Brown was our greatest failure as Prime Minister in 200 years. Part of the Brown legacy is that we never had a referendum on whether to join the euro. He and Tony Blair were locked in a power struggle over that issue 10 years ago this week. Blair wanted us to join; Brown wanted to keep us out. On 11 June 2003, Alastair Campbell noted in his diary: “Things haven’t worked out on the euro and TB was pretty fed up… The judgement was settling that GB basically thwarted him.” Read full article here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/andy-mcsmiths-diary-why-we-have-one-good-reason-for-being-thankful-for-gordon-brown-8654598.html
The Scotsman, 11th June 2013
Terrorism and the Challenges for MI5 by Kevin Toolis 11/6/13 “FROM the IRA to the Islamist killers at Woolwich, terrorism – and the threat of terrorism – has been and always will be with us. The Woolwich attack, rightly, has focused attention once more on the work of MI5 and raised many troubling questions as to how the alleged suspects were able to plan and brazenly carry out their “lone wolf” terrorist attack. Yet again, it appears as if a terrorist attack has been perpetrated on British soil by individuals who were certainly known to MI5 but whose actions – like those of the 7/7 bombers – the security organisation seems powerless to prevent….” Full article here: http://www.scotsman.com/news/kevin-toolis-terrorism-and-the-challenge-for-mi5-1-2961268
STV, 11th June 2013
On Scotland Tonight on Monday 11th June Ian Grieve performs an extract from the play, followed by a discussion with Kevin Toolis about the play and it’s themes. Watch the whole segment here: http://news.stv.tv/scotland/228914-why-did-gordon-brown-struggle-to-find-success-as-prime-minister/
The Edinburgh Reporter, 30th May 2013
The Confessions of Gordon Brown is featured in The Edinburgh Reporter’s Roundup of what’s coming up at this years Edinburgh Fringe Festival Full article here: http://www.theedinburghreporter.co.uk/2013/05/edinburgh-festival-fringe-2013-bigger-better-and-brighter/
The Guardian, 28th May 2013
‘Diary: What do you give the ex-PM who has everything? Bananas and a caffeine shot to keep him going’ Hugh Muir’s 27/5/13 “Rare to see New Labour’s other history man, Gordon Brown, at Westminster. But if he will not speak his wisdom from the Commons, we may savour him as portrayed on the political stage. Heading for the London theatre, the Edinburgh Fringe and Labour conference is The Confessions of Gordon Brown, a play by the Emmy-nominated writer Kevin Toolis that promises to expose “the darkest secrets of being prime minister, the stab-in-the-back plotting, the betrayals and, most importantly – the hair gel.” To replicate the spirit of Gordon’s time in office, the lights would go out and the curtain would fall down.” Read full article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/may/27/hugh-muir-diary-tony-blair
The Scotsman, 30th April 2013
Kevin Toolis: Gordon Brown’s image problem’ By KEVIN TOOLIS, Published on 30/04/2013
The fall of a great man and how we choose our leaders is the theme of a new play by Kevin Toolis Love him or loathe him, Gordon Brown was our greatest failure as prime minister in the last 200 years. Even three years after his fall, the reasons why this superbly capable, moral man failed so badly in the office of Prime Minister are of burning political relevance as both the independence referendum and the next UK general election loom. Brown’s failure was a failure of leadership. Despite his vast economic expertise, he could not persuade the British people that their future was brighter under his command. Ultimately, Scottish independence too will also be decided not by scrutiny of a mass of conflicting economic arguments but on faith in the leadership of Alex Salmond. Who we choose to rule over us, and what we expect from the leader, is a perennial question and is as old as human history itself. For the last three years, and after a lifetime of political reporting across the globe, I started investigating how the concept of the modern leader is created and constructed. And why Gordon Brown, Tory leaders Iain Duncan Smith and William Hague, Neil Kinnock and Michael Foot all failed as potential prime ministers. The result is a play The Confessions of Gordon Brown that will be staged at the Pleasance in August at the Festival. The Confessions is a broad work of political satire as well as a careful study of all of the necessary elements, and hidden arts, of political leadership. For the full article go to: http://www.scotsman.com/news/kevin-toolis-gordon-brown-s-image-problem-1-2913782