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Edinburgh Fringe 2014

Donald Robertson is not a stand up comedian

Gary McNair

Genre: Drama

Venue: Traverse Theatre


Low Down

What would you do if everyone in the world hated you? Would you run? Would you fight? Or would you try to make them laugh? Donald Robertson has got no mates and he isn’t funny. But with guidance from his new mentor Gary, he hopes that this is all about to change. 


Donald Robertson is a weedy kid who gets picked on, really he’s bottom of the pile in the playground pecking order. So to remedy this he decides that to be liked he has to be funny, and to practice he tells terrible jokes to strangers on the bus. One of these strangers is Gary McNair, the man telling us this story and a comedian of sorts who takes it upon himself to teach poor Donald Robertson the art of comedy.

It is a nicely crafted story, starting with McNair performing at a stand up gig telling us some appalling jokes that elicit tired groans from the audience. He then moves into the main bulk of the story of his ‘mentoring’ of Donald Robertson, occasionally breaking the fourth wall to let us into the ‘secrets of comedy’. This was actually quite interesting in the context of the Edinburgh fringe, as when I saw a couple of comedians later in the week these techniques were patently obvious in their acts.

The play worked well in the small Traverse 2 space, dressed to look like a comedy club, with audience members sitting at cabaret tables down the front, and a brick-backed stage with a bar stool and a mic. McNair was an engaging storyteller, getting us to like him (thanks to some of his comedy techniques), but exposing enough of his own loneliness and struggles to be a rounded character who is interesting to watch.

This play exposes the bitter cruelty of childhood, the pain of isolation and bullying and the harsh reality that in this life it is kill or be killed, and in order to rise up the pecking order you have to send someone else down to take your place. There is a lovely twist at the end of the show, which brings the whole thing full circle in a very satisfying way. I won’t expose the surprise, as this would ruin it somewhat, but suffice to say it is a lovely, honest performance.


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