Letters to Morrissey
- Kirstyn Smith
- 21 August 2017
This article is from 2017.
Heartbreaking, triumphant take on growing up a misfit in working-class Scotland
The stage is set with all the trapping of your stereotypical Morrissey fan: piles of books and records, magazines, a record player, a lone gladioli in a glass. Gary is writing his final letter to Morrissey from the top of a hill in his 'shit town', and starts off (as most Morrissey fans do) with acknowledging the iconic singer's problematic image of recent times.
Letters to Morrissey is the third in McNair's trilogy of work that explores the struggles and occasional pleasures of growing up working class in Scotland. Teenage McNair relates to the younger Morrissey, the one who sang of the joys of being an outsider: 'he dared us not to fit in,' McNair explains, not to fall victim to the strangleholds of masculinity, and he's precisely the person McNair needs to hear from. He has a secret that he can't tell his school counsellor or any of his friends. Subsequently, McNair becomes obsessed with getting a reply from Morrissey.
McNair is obviously a big fan of Morrissey; he talks with familiarity and wit about the relationship many of the singer's more zealous fan base have with him. 'We'd do anything for you,' he says. 'And I think you'd do the same for us.' At the same time, the relationship between McNair and his best friend, Tony, is explored, and the similarities are palpable. McNair has both on a pedestal, but it's Tony he's worried about. Cos Tony pushed his mum down the stairs, and now he's being bullied to breaking point and will be moved to a different school.
McNair is great at portraying the one person in town who feels like a misfit, and he plays his two sides off each other perfectly. On one hand, he's the cliched teenage Morrissey fan who drops song lyrics into everyday speech as though it's incredibly clever, and writes essays about how the death penalty should be made legal for one person in the world: Margaret Thatcher. On the other, he's a desperate young guy who, when it's announced Morrissey is coming to town (well, to Glasgow), realises he has the chance to get his answer in person.
The build up to the gig is a beautiful whirlwind of flashing lights, anticipatory crescendos and the pure passion of someone who has been a fan, one of those fans who would, absolutely, lay down their life for their hero. And the climax to the best night of McNair's life is wonderful and painful and precisely what Morrissey would do. McNair does obsession and fear in a way that's relatable and heartbreaking; Letters to Morrissey is a triumph.
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