Jack Docherty – Nothing But

Aug 26 2021 | By More

★★★★☆    Oddly serious

Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14): Wed 11– Sun 29 Aug 2021
Review by Hugh Simpson

Jack Docherty – Nothing But in the Gilded Balloon Wine Bar showcases Fringe veteran Docherty, in a piece of deceptively serious dramatic monologue. It draws on his comic roots and showbiz history, but ends up delivering something more troubling and rewarding.

There is clearly a great deal of personal reminiscence in the story of Docherty’s long-running relationship with the Fringe, with references to his shows with Moray Hunter and portrayals of Scot Squad’s Chief Commissioner Miekelson. (Of course, he goes back even further to the early 80s with the Bodgers, the sketch troupe that eventually formed the basis of the mighty Absolutely).

Jack Docherty

How much of the story woven in among this is true is another matter. Docherty describes an encounter with an unfeasibly gorgeous and obliging American woman in 1989 – complicated by the fact that young Jack is already involved with the woman who will become the mother of his daughter – and attempts to recapture that moment in 2018.

It can’t all be true, which is lucky for Docherty in two ways. First, because the version he presents of himself is in many senses thoroughly reprehensible – immature, deceitful, not a little conniving and utterly incapable of facing up to himself or his emotions.

At no point, however, do we not believe that this all really happened, which is the second point to Docherty’s advantage – it means he remains an utterly convincing performer.

As well as considerable humour, there is a definite melancholy to this rumination on ageing, missed opportunities and self-delusion that may well chime loudest with those of us of a certain age who seem to remember that Docherty didn’t always bill himself as Jack.

a love letter to Edinburgh

There is enough here to interest everyone, however, particularly in the way that it functions as a love letter to Edinburgh in general and the Fringe in particular, something that is particularly resonant this year. It also pokes gentle yet necessary fun at those rain-sodden rom-coms with their instant connections and Manic Pixie Dream Girls.

In among the shortcomings of an emotionally illiterate man-child (otherwise known, the show suggests, as a middle-aged Scotsman) are some surprisingly poignant reflections on the passing of time and father-daughter bonds. It should also be pointed out that there is considerable discussion of sex as well as a lengthy description of drug taking.

Docherty’s script is beautifully polished, with the drip-feeding of information well handled, good use made of jumps in time and metaphors nicely extended.

It is not by any means perfect – too much use is made of repeated phrases, which are no doubt intended as recurrent motifs but instead begin to irritate. It also suffers, despite clear and careful editing, from the perennial Fringe ‘hour slot’ affliction of still being a few minutes too long for its own good.

This is largely alleviated by the direction of Kate Close and Pete Baikie, meaning it is more varied and involving than many one-handers. The lighting, however, is a shade over-fussy, with too many changes meaning too much scope for missed cues.

It is Docherty’s stagecraft and raconteurial skill, however, which glosses over any shortcomings and holds the audience. Shows are too often described as ‘bittersweet’; this one decidedly favours the bitter, but is all the more involving as a result.

Running time 1 hour 5 minutes (no interval)
Gilded Balloon Teviot (Wine Bar), Teviot Row House, EH8 9AJ (Venue 14)
Wednesday 11 – Sunday 29 August 2021 (not Sunday 15 or Thursday 26)
Daily (not 15 or 26) at 7.00 pm
Information and tickets at: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/jack-docherty-nothing-but


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