One of the beloved characters created by the late great Glasgow cartoonist, Bud Neill, was the GI Bride whose catchphrase was ‘Dae ye go as faur as Pairtick?’ Conversely, and ironically, Partick’s most famous son, Billy Connolly, did go very faur fae Pairtick to become one of the best known and best loved coupons in the western world.
This tribute to the man affectionately known as The Big Yin, from another well-loved Glasgow man, writer and performer Gary McNair, is a compilation of interviews with people across Scotland about Billy Connolly conducted by a small team of Story Gatherers from the National Theatre of Scotland. These stories cover the gamut of Billy’s life already known to most of us, such as his time in the Clyde shipyards, his Catholic upbringing and folk background. They range from the absurd to the moving to his profound unwitting influence on some people beyond making them laugh.
In his own singularly engaging style, and under the assured direction of Joe Douglas, McNair moves across the 3 mics on stage using subtle voice changes as he hilariously takes on each contributor’s memories.
Musicians Simon Liddell and Jill O’Sullivan composed the music that created a quiet and subtle background to this straight from the heart tribute to the Big Yin that took place on a warmly lit stage from lighting designers Kate Bonney and Simon Hayes.
Claire Halleran’s design, in the form of the pair of magnificent celestial trousers and braces sported by McNair not long into the performance, and the neon signs representing Connolly’s iconic round specs, a welly boot and a big banana, are a gorgeous asset to the piece. Her wee nod to another Scottish icon named William, in the form of an upturned bucket at one of the mics, is another way of saying that the Big Yin is also ‘Oor Wullie’.
Billy Connolly may have been exotic to much of the rest of the UK when he first breenged on to the Parkinson show with his fearless groundbreaking humour but to his fellow Scots he was, as this work so brilliantly emphasises, ‘Wan ae us’.
Gary McNair, a tall engaging, funny Glaswegian with longish wavy hair and a beard is not totally dissimilar in appearance to Billy Connolly so is the perfect fella to bring his fabulously constructed totally gallus piece of theatre to the Scottish public.
Dear Billy – A Love Letter to the Big Yin from the People of Scotland is as warm and genuine a Billet doux (Billy Doo) as you’ll get. As an audience member in the Traverse shouted out at the start of the show, ‘Gaun yersel, Gary!’
Running time 90 mins Age recommend 12+