Gary: Tank Commander

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

Gary, the creation of hotly tipped young comic Greg McHugh, is certainly a credible creation: a working-class Edinburgh lad on leave from Iraq.

And it’s nice of the Gilded Balloon to add to the realism of being in a sealed metal tank in the searing desert heat, by staging this show in the Balcony Room, the most insufferably sweltering space of any of the major venues. It’s a room that’s so uncomfortably hot, so unfit for purpose, that any act here is always going to struggle to hold the suffering audience’s attention.

That’s certainly true of the Tank Commander, whose gags are underplayed and subtle – perhaps too subtle. There’s no big statement about war here, rather it’s about the mostly mundane, daily existence of our troops.

He tells of how he halts Iraqi’s while singing Erasure’s synth-pop classic Stop! or how he once met Tony Blair on a front-line visit – that’s really as dramatic as things get. Alongside his tour-of-duty tales sit all-too believable observations of life on a soulless council estate and the ‘radges’ he encounters.

The rhythms of Scottish slang seem to provide much of the comedy, even if he seems uncertain if we understand the dialect. ‘Da ye ken "ken"?’ he asks, checking up on our vocabulary. It must be the accent that’s the trigger, that’s the only explanation for the laughs his otherwise bland take on the Glasgow Airport terror attack gets: ‘Some fucking joker’s trying tae park his car in the terminal’. Elsewhere he relates world events to his limited experiences, it’s the only way he can understand them.

Joking about the war seems to be considered risqué or edgy, though there’s nothing Gary says that’s all that controversial, especially in the context of an ‘anything goes’ Fringe. And, as he points out, conflicts have always provided a rich source of comedy: ‘Allo Allo, Dad’s Army, Platoon…’

The character is fleshed-out and utterly believable, but that seems to come at the expense of hilarity, despite the occasional revealing, funny aside lifting the average.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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