Letters to Morrissey

It is perhaps critical to the themes of this play that it’s set before the rise of the internet celebrity, in what might naively be referred to as a better time.  Of vinyl.  Of letters sent by post.  A time where there was no expectation of instant gratification.  Of old fashioned school violence.  But of course there was far less emotional support for those that really needed it.  Gary McNair presents a story about a young man who doesn’t know how to make sense of his world, seeming to lack any sort of role model.  He begins a one way friendship that makes sense to him, sending letters to Morrissey but never receiving a reply.  The dynamics of the relationship are a bit religious, a bit like an older brother, but it all seems to work.

Letters to Morrissey at HOME (12-16 Sept) is a tender, well written story about how some of us struggle to find our way in the world.  I wasn’t into the Smiths, but I can think of many other bands and songs that shaped how I see the world.  For me it was a specific lyric or a song that would make sense of what I was going through.  It was never just one performer.  For the narrator it is always Morrissey, and he weaves his own life with Morrissey’s lyrics through school essays, playground behaviour and interactions with friends.  When he faces life changing decisions he reaches for Morrissey for guidance.  But how far can you rely on one singer’s world view to solve all your challenges?

Gary McNair creates interesting characters.  The school counsellor is complex, and having been through a similar experience appears worldly wise, if a little too knowing.  The people he meets outside the counsellor’s office are really funny, quirky and multidimensional.  Only his friend Tony feels incomplete; the narrator doesn’t understand why Tony is no longer his friend, and more than anything wants to help him.  But this distance in the relationship means that we sometimes feel inadequately engaged in Tony’s story, on which the play ultimately pivots.

Still, this is an engaging, beautifully told story that maintains great pace for the hour.  Backed by a lighting grid that bookmarks each section, and some clever use of sound (although there is a distinct lack of Smiths music for diehard fans), the whole production has a very consistent feel.  Certainly the excitement of seeing Morrissey at Glasgow Barrowlands is palpable, an effective counterpoint to the isolation of both the narrator’s bedroom, and the hill beside the Erskine bridge on which the narrator opens and closes the story.

photo by David Moneith-Hodge

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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