Ex-criminal to tell life story in stage play

Thomas McCrudden
Thomas McCrudden

A no-holds-barred theatre production telling the shockingly truthful story of a former gangland enforcer’s search for love is coming to Kirkcaldy next week – and it’s not to be missed.

The play, Doglife, by Grassmarket Productions, will be shown in the town’s Old Kirk on Friday and Saturday night and Mandy Henderson, manager of the Linton Lane Centre is urging everyone to take the time to see it if they can.

From left: Mark Traynor, Thomas, Cllr Judy Hamilton, Mandy Henderson and Jeremy Weller at Linton Lane.

From left: Mark Traynor, Thomas, Cllr Judy Hamilton, Mandy Henderson and Jeremy Weller at Linton Lane.

It is the second part in a trilogy based on the writings of ex-con Thomas McCrudden, whose crime-addled life saw him on a downward spiral to institutionalisation before he dramatically turned his life around and began to help others in similar predicaments to his own.

The production, directed by six-time Fringe First winner Jeremy Weller, is coming to Fife through a grant-aided move by Mandy and Councillor Judy Hamilton who went to see it at the Edinburgh Festival and were so blown away by it that they vowed to bring it to local audiences.

Mandy said: “It was just so relevant to some of the issues affecting the more deprived communities in and around Templehall and other areas of Kirkcaldy that we thought we have to let people here see it.

“We came back totally buzzing with enthusiasm and have been lucky in securing funding from the Fife Health and Wellbeing Alliance to bring it to the town.”

The play focuses on Thomas’ attempts to find love and be loved through various relationships, and he and the other cast members drew on their own experiences, giving the drama a uniquely powerful quality which sets it apart from others.

Mandy added: “I knew right away that it would strike a chord, particularly with young men who may have had very difficult upbringings and who try to play the hard man role in their lives.

“These are the people we hope to try to get along next week to see the play.”

And, not content with just bringing Doglife to Kirkcaldy, Linton Lane is also trying to get funding to run a series of theatre workshops in Templehall, at the centre, to entice people living in the area to try their hand at writing and performing their own stories.

A brainstorming session with members of the community, Thomas McCrudden, Jeremy Weller and Mark Traynor, associate director, held recently attracted a hugely positive response.

Jeremy said: “It would be a great privilege to be part of the community and to bring the work we do into its natural home.”

Life & times

Thomas McCrudden grew up in a deprived housing scheme in Glasgow where, despite a supportive family, he learned to turn to violence in order to survive.

“I am just a guy from a housing scheme who was told every day I was worth nothing,” he explained.

“I acted the hard guy and took on that lifestyle, and along the way I treated people very badly, including partners and even my children.”

Thomas became involved in the gangland culture from the age of 11, the beginning of his criminal life.

However one day, while in HM Prison Lewes, he saw a young man coming through the prison doors.

“I could see right away that he was terrified. He wasn’t looking at anyone and I knew he would become a victim. Something changed inside me and I decided to take him under my wing. It completely changed my life.

“I became a listener in the prison and the boys started opening up to me because they knew I was one of them.”

Thomas worked as a mentor for Scottish charity Positive Prison Positive Futures, offering support to young men coming out of custody. He enrolled in college aged 40, writing about his life as a violent thug.

These were passed on to theatre-makers Jeremy Weller and Mark Traynor, who thought there was the basis of a play.

After a bit of persuading, Thomas agreed to take part and his plays are now widely acclaimed.