It took me a little while to fall fully into this finely crafted work by Gary McNair, but that’s not such a bad thing in theatre. Sometimes a good piece slowly moves over you and you become enthralled without knowing it, initially. And with this production visiting from Scotland (and with hit season in Edinburgh behind it), this is the case.
It’s a play about gambling, and not just in the literal sense; gambling on life and how it is meant to be and not meant to be, and on the process of dying itself.
A Grandad gambles on his initial prognosis of a month left to live and wins, and then pushes it further to make the new millennium and just misses out. And isn’t that just like living. You win some and you lose some – so they say. How true!
Beginning in 1966 and launched by how it was at the time, and a big world cup gambling win, this one man play uses the relationship between a boy and his granddad to delve into the tricky and emotionally moving business of human life coming to an end.
Told through the boys own tale about being with his Grandad pre his pancreatic cancer diagnosis and then throughout the lead in too, and finally his death, this play using the art of story-telling to un-ravel the layers of this short and crazy existence that we on earth live.
We begin when the boy (who we all adore) is seven years old and move from place to place and person to person. School room and teacher, gambling shop and rough-cut mates, and family members on the take all slip effortlessly in and out of our theatre realm (in the lovely Holden Street) through McNair’s fine performance. We know the end is nigh – for it’s in the telling from the word go, but we still feel the unexpected drift over us and the sadness, joy, revelation and reflection swill off the stage and take us in hand.
If this play intends us to feel the love between a boy and Grandad it achieves, entirely. If it wants us to think about mortality, well it depends on how open we are to doing do that.
For me one of the most special parts of this production (which I’m sure will have a long life) is that it accurately and quite beautifully talks about the male condition, the bonds between older and younger and a magical relationships that can be within family units.
One moment I felt a tear well up, and the next I had a good giggle; and isn’t that a treat when it comes to seeing theatre.