Review: Letters to Morrissey

Letters to M

Image: Mihaela Bodlovic

Dear Boy With the Thorn In His Side,

It’s not easy being an isolated young person in a small town, with “that special brand of loneliness that’s bottled for us indie kids”. An outsider. The damaged spine on the last Penguin classic in the pile, in the corner of a charity shop.The coffee sweet in a bag of Revels- so minging.


‘Sixteen, clumsy and shy’.

Award-winning theatre maker, writer and performer one Gary McNair, follows up recent Edinburgh Fringe successes Donald Robertson Is Not A Stand up Comedian and A Gambler’s Guide to Dying with new show Letters to Morrissey  and is well aware of the pain of Moz love. This poignant new show, directed with subtlety and a slow-burn by previous collaborator and Traverse Associate Director Gareth Nicholls, is framed around the music of the polemical poet, but is also a darkly comic paean to growing up and finding affirmation through others.

You, surrounded by gladioli, Wilde books and vinyl, explore the duality of small-town youth, as evinced by Moz’s caustic lyrics- the simmering violence, and tentative romanticism. Effectively, you pour Dr Pepper- or perhaps Irn Bru- onto the toxic cocktail of masculine violence. These rough-hewn childhood characters-Tony, Kyle, Jan the Lesbian and even one or two well-meaning teachers with Freudian tendencies – are all unwilling victims of ingrained modes of behaviour. Morrissey, being a sexually ambiguous icon, is both attracted to,and repulsed by, such expressions of being male.

When a Blue Peter badge is no longer an emblem of innocence, when right-wing scumbags can be found in the sweaty throng at Moz gigs- there is only one person to write to- Morrissey himself. He was a letter writer himself, many times- will he reply in that distinctive childlike scrawl?

Danny Krass’ soundscapes emulate the shimmering incandescence of Johnny Marr’s guitar, which can blister or mewl like a drowning cat. There is a tease to the short splinters of sound, including Smiths intros, much in the way as there is a will he-won’t he reply to your fan mail. Few things feel finer than an introduction to a favourite song- the expectation can be like foreplay.

Pathos and one-liners flow fast and free. These are recognisable creations, just like Sheila, William, Fatty, and ‘the sycophantic slags of fame’. You, in your understated, softly spoken way, tap into feeling less than others; the thrill of collective experience, of belonging through music. Finding others’ sweetness, through bittersweet songs. How one simple word or chord can tap into something intangible, the feeling in your guts. Expressing that which can’t be expressed.

Funny, touching, raw as a slap.

Gary, take a bow.


Girl (No Longer) Afraid x





At Traverse Theatre,Cambridge Street, Edinburgh until August 27th. Times vary. Telephone 0131 228 1404





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