Jackie McGlone talks to the controversial actor, and prospective MP,

Tam Dean Burn whose performance of the poetry of Bobby Sands is

calculated to make the public see Red

THE tabloid headlines screamed, ''IRA Play Uproar''. It was, says the

actor Tam Dean Burn, no more than he expected. ''The moment it was

announced that I was to perform poetry by a terrorist -- the dead

hunger-striker Bobby Sands -- I knew a lot of people in Glasgow would be

upset,'' says Burn.

But, points out the actor, who has also just been adopted as the

Glasgow Central prospective parliamentary candidate for the Communist

Party of Great Britain, the only ''uproar'' is in the headline. ''They

have done it, they have created the row and, of course, they always have

a rabid Tory standing by whom they can phone up for the statutory quote

that they want and that's exactly what they have done.''

Now, says Burn, he hopes that people will come along to see his

one-man show about Sands and make up their own minds about the issues

raised. ''Perhaps in a way you can't have an open mind about such an

emotive question as Northern Ireland, but I do hope that I can at least

challenge people's preconceptions.

''The Trilogy is not about strong men withstanding torture, it is an

extremely vulnerable piece and has a real universal feel because, I

feel, it is more about prison rights and about the depths and the extent

of suffering that the state will force human beings into who disagree

with their system; it is also about the possibility of being able to

transcend that and about how even the most horrendous tortures can be


Sands wrote in his poems that there are no heroes. But, says Burn, to

him Sands is a hero. ''He most certainly is. I don't support him 100%

politically because I don't support nationalism -- I don't see it as a

positive force, but in terms of his fight I see that as the same fight I

face as a politically committed human being.''

The Leith-born actor says he first decided to perform Sands's Trilogy

when he was appearing at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh in James

Kelman's play, Hardie and Baird, the story of an episode of what Kelman

has called ''suppressed radical history in Scotland'', and of the last

days in solitary confinement of the weavers Andrew Hardie and John Baird

as they awaited execution for High Treason after the Battle of


''I started to read other prison writings and came across Sands's

poetry, which is very influenced by Oscar Wilde's Ballad of Reading

Jail. Although some people may find Sands's work simplistic, I found it

a very inspiring piece.''

He has since performed it for a group of Irish pensioners in London --

''I thought that it would be too much for them because it is very

harrowing, but these were people who know people who have been through

this: their sons and daughters still live with the Troubles every single

day of their lives.'' He has also staged the piece in Corfu at a

political summer school on May 5 this year, the tenth anniversary of

Sands's death in the Maze Prison's H-Block.

Previous performances have been in aid of the Book Fund for Republican

Prisoners in Northern Ireland, but the Tramway performance is a

commission from the theatre and Burn is staging this production with the

director Lisa Goldman as a piece of commercial work.

''I believe that you have to stand up and be counted. You have got to

stand by your beliefs. I know that as an actor I run the risk of being

labelled as someone who speaks out and who causes trouble, but I am

determined to keep the Red Clydeside tradition going.

''The problems faced by the working classes in Glasgow demand nothing

less. We want to prove that the Communist Party is not dead.'' Burn, who

has appeared in TV series like Advocates and The Bill and most recently

in Communicado's sell-out show, The Cone Gatherers, says his faction of

the CP, now called the Provisional Central Committee, will revive the

Daily Worker newspaper before the General Election, as well as field

four candidates in the United Kingdom.

''We are standing at the election because we want to plant a flag.

These are difficult times for socialism, but we want to show there is a

genuine alternative for working-class voters in this country. The

trouble with the British left now is that it is conservative with a

small 'c'; it doesn't take chances any more.''

The son of a joiner, Burn says that his parents, who live in

Edinburgh, have grown used to their rebellious son taking up causes. He

was a punk rocker on leaving drama school and appeared in radical shows

like Why Doesn't the Pope Come to Glasgow? (he did, while they were

still rehearsing it) and have accepted that he will never play nice

romantic heroes on television. ''They know I can only do what I believe

in,'' he says.

* Trilogy by Bobby Sands, performed by Tam Dean Burn, is at Tramway,

Glasgow, until Saturday.