A HIDDEN piece of history is brought to light in a new “brutal comedy with songs”.

I am Thomas – A Brutal Comedy with Songs is from the acclaimed theatre company Told by an Idiot and runs from Tuesday, March 8 to Saturday 12 at Salisbury Playhouse.

It takes a look into Edinburgh’s dark past to bring out the black humour in the true story of Scottish student Thomas Aitkenhead, who was the last person in Britain to be executed for blasphemy.

Paul Hunter, the artistic director of Told by an Idiot and director of I am Thomas, says: “The idea for the show came from Iain Johnstone, who has composed the music and is an associate of our company Told by an Idiot.

"Six or seven years ago we were doing a technical rehearsal and he happened to tell me the story of Thomas Aitkenhead. It left me reeling. I couldn’t believe this extraordinary piece of hidden Scottish history.

“He was just questioning things like students do and unfortunately he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Thomas was reported to the university and six weeks later he was arrested, put on trial and found guilty of blasphemy and subsequently executed.

Paul says music and comedy is a brilliant way to tell this story of a man that many audiences will know very little about.

He added: “When you look at material that is so unremittingly bleak the ability to find the right tone of black humour is really crucial for us. Through that comedy you reveal the humanity more of the story and in some ways you are able to make a more powerful point.”

Paul explains: “For us the piece is not about blasphemy or anti-religious in anyway. It obviously feels very pertinent and prescient in a way because it is about freedom of expression and tolerance; all the things that are very present in our worlds wherever we are. It feels like a very important story to tell.”

It is a first-time collaboration between The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, the National Theatre of Scotland and Told by an Idiot. 

“The show is not a piece of history. It will have a very contemporary feel to it in its look. It moves between times and the present day.”

I am Thomas features original lyrics by award-winning poet and playwright Simon Armitage.

Speaking about the world premiere of I am Thomas, Paul says it is “incredibly exciting”.

“We are thrilled to come back to the Playhouse,” said Paul said: “I hope it provokes audiences, entertains them, I hope it makes them laugh and makes them think and feel something.”

I am Thomas is performed by John Cobb, Amanda Hadingue, Myra McFayden, John Pfumojena, Hannah McPake, Dominic Marsh, Charlie Folorunsho and Iain Johnstone, who also wrote the music.

For tickets call the box office on 01722 320333 or visit salisburyplayhouse.com.