The Guardian 19 May 2023

There is an air of Nick Park’s Creature Comforts about Gary McNair’s “love letter” to Billy Connolly. The performer builds his joyful one-man show from interviews with ordinary people about what they think of the shipyard welder turned national treasure. He recalls as many as 50 of them, each delivered with careful attention to the pauses, mistakes and digressions of everyday speech.

He shows us people losing the thread, mixing up their words or going on surreal flights of fancy. Ask a stranger about Connolly and you will, it seems, be told about sheep thrown into the sea, the pleasure of Flumps and something about the Wombles. Like Park’s animation, which put human voices into the mouths of clay animals, Dear Billy delights in the quirks of conversation.

There is tremendous fun in that, but McNair goes so much further. Joined on the carpeted stage by musicians Jill O’Sullivan and Simon Liddell, creating a superb acoustic soundtrack, he weaves his source material into a democratic tapestry with Connolly as its guiding spirit. McNair used a similar technique in Locker Room Talk, his 2017 response to Donald Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” remarks, in which he quizzed men about their attitudes to women. Dear Billy has none of that darkness, but in its collage of voices, it presents an equally rich picture of a nation. [READ MORE]

By Mark Fisher

MARK FISHER is a freelance theatre critic and feature writer based in Edinburgh and has written about theatre in Scotland since the late-1980s. He is a theatre critic for The Guardian, a former editor of The List magazine and a frequent contributor to the Scotsman and other publications. He is the co-editor of the play anthology Made in Scotland (1995), and the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide (2012) and How to Write About Theatre (2015) – all Bloomsbury Methuen Drama. He is also the editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls and What Do You Call That Noise? An XTC Discovery Book (both Mark Fisher Ltd).