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Theatre review: Gary McNair: Donald Robertson is not a Stand-Up Comedian

  • by JOYCE MCMILLAN
 

IT’S a stand-up show, all right, this latest theatre piece by Gary McNair, performer, writer, and now member of the Arches/ National Theatre Of Scotland 2013 Auteurs Project; McNair comes on stage in a blue suit with matching shirt and tie, picks up the microphone, and talks for an hour or so.

Gary McNair: Donald Robertson is not a Stand-Up Comedian - Arches, Glasgow

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His aim, though, is not to do comedy, but to interrogate the function of comedy in society; and he achieves this by telling the story of one Donald Robertson, a small, bullied boy of 15 whom he meets on a bus, and whom he tries to coach towards his ambition of becoming funny enough to be accepted as one of the lads.

Gary’s theory is that comedy is all about cruelty; and that to escape from the bottom of the school pecking order, Donald has to pick on someone else more vulnerable, and make him or her the butt of his humour.

Gary’s view of comedy is debatable, of course; and McNair is at his brilliant best, as he brings to life the bus-top dialogues between the narrator and wee Donald, who eventually goes off to do brave battle at the school talent contest. The show also has a clever twist in the tail, as Donald appears before us, and it becomes clear who has been chosen as the target of his humour. Although the show is brief, it’s difficult to imagine these vital questions about comedy, masculinity, hierarchy and cruelty being handled more skilfully, in such a short span, or with such a sense of self-questioning irony, from a writer and performer who knows his power to make audiences suspend disbelief, and who mistrusts and challenges that power, every inch of the way.

 

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