Theatre review: Ida Tamson, Oran Mor, Glasgow

THERE’S barely a ticket to be had for the lunchtime show at Oran Mor this week, and given the combination of a play by Denise Mina that seems to pack half the weight of one of her novels into a single hour, and a star performance from Elaine C Smith in the title role, it’s hardly surprising.

Joy McAvoy, Elaine C Smith and Paul James Corrigan shine in Denise Mina's Ida Tamson

Ida Tamson, Oran Mor, Glasgow ****

First seen in the Play, Pie And Pint season of 2006, Ida Tamson tells the story of a woman determined to raise her two grandsons as best she can, while remaining in the working-class Glasgow community where she has lived all her life. The threats Ida faces go far beyond the usual, though, and when she decides to tell her story to her favourite Take-A-Break-style magazine, ambitious young journalist Helen – played with wide-eyed pseudo-empathy by Joy McAvoy – spots an opportunity that could be the making of her career.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Ida, though, is no-one’s fool; through a gripping hour of flashback scenes and meetings with Helen, we begin to understand the sheer ingenuity and heroism she has had to deploy to keep her grandsons clear of the influence both of her ageing drug-dealer husband, and of the man known as The Flesher, the younger-generation criminal boss, played with chilling force by Paul James Corrigan, who ruined the life of her addict daughter, Mary.

In Lesley Hart’s production, it’s a riveting hour of drama, laced with grim humour, and beautifully performed; if it deploys the odd “battling granny” stereotype in creating this powerful heroine for our times, Elaine C Smith brings so much wit, humanity and nuance to the role that the audience finds itself cheering her to the echo, nonetheless.