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Theatre Review: A Gambler's Guide to Dying ****

Michael Cox reviews a production that is 'frequently both moving and funny'.

‘Between printing the legend and printing the truth, one should print the legend.’

A paraphrase from the classic film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and perhaps a theme Gary McNair thought of when creating his latest production: A Gambler’s Guide to Dying.

McNair tells the story of his grandfather: a man inclined to tell tall tales and place hopeless flutters on long-shots with the promise of a huge pay out. When given a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and an assessment of surviving for only a month, a bold bet is placed on him beating the odds and the doctors’ projections.

The hour-long production is many things, including a hilarious snapshot of a Scottish community and a loving portrait of a beloved figure. It is also an excellent opportunity for McNair to shine as both performer and writer, for he brings his cast of characters to great life while telling a compelling story. The grandfather is a great personality, a loveable rascal who prefers the romance of a good story over the realities of truth, and his bonding with his young grandson, over wagers and past legacies, are a pleasure to watch.

McNair is an superb storyteller and performer, and it’s easy to wonder: are we watching truth or romanticised legend making? Who knows, and frankly who cares: Gambler’s Guide is a terrific production that is frequently both moving and funny.

A Gambler’s Guide to Dying is presented as part of this year’s Made in Scotland festival and is at the Traverse until August 30. Check website for dates and times.

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