Words Marie-Claire Taylor
There are no certainties in this life. Except that you die. This (bleak) premise is key in the one-man show, A Gambler’s Guide to Dying. Though incredibly dark, the story has an unshakable optimism that lurches from tall-tale to tall-tale, told through an array of characters, all brought to life by actor John Burrows. There is no other person seen throughout the show and only some occasional cues from the soundtrack – that signal a change in scene – punctuate Burrow’s constant soliloquy.
Grandson Hugh (Burrow) regales us for an hour expounding the virtues of his dearly, departed Grandfather. Set in rural Scotland, the narrative leaps around Hughes’s inner dialogue and his many conversations with his Grandfather and his many conversations about his Grandfather. Hugh wants to find truth in Grandad’s stories and bonds with the old man by placing bets at the local ‘bookies’. It’s not a typical picture of family values, but somehow it seems wholesome. In fact, many in attendance at the Basement Studio seemed to be enjoying time with their parents.
Burrows acts as both Hugh, his school teacher, the schoolyard bully, mum, grasping aunty Carol, uncle and of course Grandfather, while being simultaneously in conversation with himself. Despite being chaotic, the dialogue delivers some truths that are uncomfortable but unshakably true. “You can’t take it with you when you go” was my favourite. Or maybe even, “You need to lose hundreds of times before you win”. “Heroic” was the immediate proclamation of one audience member upon thunderous applause at the show’s end. And that was hard to disagree with.
A Gambler’s Guide to Dying is presented by Burrowed Time and plays at The Basement until 23 June