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A Gambler's Guide to Dying (Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh)

A 'touching, gentle little solo play' from Gary McNair

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Gary McNair in A Gambler's Guide to Dying
(© Jassy Earl / Show And Tell)

In a touching, gentle little solo play, written and performed by Gary McNair, the only thing missing is a quick burst of Clive Dunn's "Granddad, we love you" though, to be fair, sentimentality doesn't come into the tribute show till right at the end.

Granddad's end, that is. He's been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1998 and gambled his life savings on surviving beyond his allotted period; he learns the value of time over money.

His story, and the play, starts with the dulcet tones of Kenneth Wolstenholme ("They think it's all over...it is now") commentating on the 1966 World Cup Final. As England seal victory, silence settles on every pub in Scotland - except the Iron Cross in Glasgow, where Terry (granddad) leaps up in noisy exultation.

His accumulator at the betting shop has resulted in a big pay-out, but he can't get out of the Gorbals pub because of his treason in "supporting" the old enemy. McNair then backtracks and rambles through his childhood at school, his relationship with granddad at home and his acquisition of the knowledge of the human condition.

It's beautifully done, though the short seventy minutes sag a little. Gags are repeated and there's a sense that all that has to be said has been said after half an hour. McNair, however, keeps it interesting through the lightness and technical excellence of his performance. And I particularly respond to his thesis of loved ones living on in the memory even more vividly than they did in life itself as a way of softening the blow of dusty evanescence.

A Gambler's Guide to Dying runs at the Traverse Theatre until 30 August.

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