12 September 2017 to 16 September 2017
Although a working knowledge of the Morrissey oeuvre will undoubtedly enhance your enjoyment of Gary McNair’s affectionate one-man show, direct from its world premiere at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, it’s nowhere near as essential as you might imagine to be as enamoured of the erstwhile Smiths frontman (turned increasingly dubious self-publicist) as its protagonist.
Directed by the Traverse Theatre’s associate director Gareth Nicholls, this stylishly done and involving hour follows up McNair’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe First hit A Gambler’s Guide to Dying, which featured in HOME’s Orbit festival in 2016, and is the final part of a trilogy of darkly comic works drawing on the joys and struggles of growing up in working class Scotland.
Through the medium of letters supposedly written to Morrissey at the turn of the millennium by a conflicted teenager from the outskirts of Glasgow, this is more of an examination of the fears, sadness and loneliness of a teenage misfit turned grown up outsider. It’s about the universal desire to be loved and understood, and the desperation implicit in having to put your faith in that strange pop star you saw on TV in 1997, back when you were 11 and suddenly found someone who “gets” you. You became so obsessed with him, in fact, that later, when you needed someone to help you with your own life, you put your faith in writing to him.
It’s a set-up that simply wouldn’t work in the age of the internet and in the wraparound, twenty years on, Gary remembers the letters and is compelled to ask himself “Has the world changed, or have I changed?”
This is a tender, well written story and the supporting characters McNair creates are, in their own ways, as interesting as the lead. If his best friend Tony feels comparatively incomplete and evasive, that’s part of the mystery too.
It’s pacily delivered and inventively directed, with clever use of lighting and music used to telling effect throughout, although nobody should expect anything even vaguely resembling a Morrissey/Smiths musical. The man himself, should he ever trouble to see it, would probably hate it, of course, which is entirely as it should be.
Reviewer: Kevin Bourke