McGonagall’s Chronicles explores the life and literary works of William Topaz McGonagall, the infamous 19th century poet whose renown developed for all the wrong reasons.
Gary McNair assumes the title role; presenting the human side of McGonagall. Due to the nature of his work, McGonagall is often reduced to a historical caricature, but McNair explores his darker context: one of violent humiliation, class struggles and emotional hardship. He is joined on stage by musicians Simon Liddell and Brian James O’Sullivan, who provide both atmospheric accompaniment and moments of humour through carefully interspersed cameo interjections.
McNair’s hour-long monologue takes a similar to format to McGonagall’s literary style: one that often sacrifices coherency for the sake of rhyme – in whatever format that may be. It is a charming idea, but never manages to quite take flight. The narrative – as charming as it may be – is superficial in its content; deriving most of its humour through hanging rhymes and other literary shortfalls McGonagall uses in his work. It intersects uncomfortably through moments in McGonagall’s career where he is physically assaulted on stage and undermined for the cheap laughs that he is forced to endure in funding his family’s table.
Nevertheless, McGonagall’s Chronicles takes a unique stance on an otherwise well-known story, and presents events in a more relatable light. A curious presentation; but one whose resonance falters outside of the theatre's confines.