Letters To Morrissey is a poignant and acute observation of teenage angst and the internal world of a social misfit. Love him or loath him Morrissey has always evoked strong reactions and this 15 yr old writes letters to him in the desperate hope that his idol will guide him through an especially difficult period of his life.
McNair does not shy away exploring and exploring the awkwardness and discomfort of a 15 yr old boy known in school as “Inky Pubes”. He is deft in his delivery of all his characters except the frustratingly elusive Tony who remains an unknown quantity. Perhaps the authenticity of McNairs’ delivery is such that it is too painful, too raw to truly bring alive this lost boy who is now forever lost.
Sitting at the Erskine Bridge looking back on his youth, a story unfolds of the hope of an always open door, “Come round anytime, you’re always welcome” to the loss of innocence and two friends either side of a door now firmly shut. The story telling is deft and warm and sweet and painful. If Billy Connolly had written and performed plays instead of stand up comedy then I think he might have aimed for something akin to this.
There is a delicious evocation of his enforced sessions with his School Counsellor who is perceptive but also shockingly indiscreet. He breaks all rules of confidentiality and overshares which creates some great bittersweet humour but also reassures an isolated boy that he is not alone in his uncertainty and distress. This creates an opportunity for McNair to open up on paper. These letters are never fandom but are expressions of confusion and fear. The desired reply never comes but the result is the same. By the process of writing answers are found and resolutions are enacted. As in therapy the process is about finding your own voice and being true to Self; having faith that sometimes doing a bad thing does not make you a bad person.
The staging is both simple and startling. The bedroom is filled with a beanbag chair, a record player, carefully tended albums and books on Oscar Wilde. The background of posters of Morrissey are dimly backlit and at other times dramatically illuminated with powerful flashing lights. This is most effective as Director Gareth Nicholls evokes Morrisseys’ Barrowland Ballroom gig in such a way that it feels like you are there standing in the moshpit with McNair and Jan the Lesbian.
This is a deserving winner of a Scotsman Fringe First award. It is an authentic insight into the teenage mind and a reminder of the fragility of the young mind in a time when mental health and arts provision funding is being decimated by our government. McNair reflects on his story by Erskine Bridge where more than 15 people commit suicide each year (£3.5 million has been spent on suicide barriers). Morrissey sang about “a light that never goes out”, perhaps as long as this play is touring that light is safe.
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