IT takes some amount of courage, not to say bare-faced cheek, to make a one-man show that attempts to reflect the affection in which Billy Connolly, the barely disputed king of stand-up comedy, is held here in his homeland. Thankfully, the writer, dramatist and performer Gary McNair is a courageous so-and-so, and a cheeky bastard into the bargain.

The Glasgow-based theatre-maker has travelled the length and breadth of the country collecting thoughts and reminiscences for Dear Billy, his self-described “love to letter to the Big Yin from the people of Scotland.”

He has then – in a project that is as improbable as it is outrageous – moulded them into a 90-minute show in which he seeks to give characterful voice to his interviewees, while also capturing something of the life, work and irrepressible personality of Connolly himself.

When it was announced by its producer, the National Theatre of Scotland, this show seemed like a tall, if not an impossible, order. How could McNair (or anyone else, for that matter) shape into a coherent stage work the tremendous outpouring of fondness and admiration that he would, undoubtedly, encounter when he asked the people of Caledonia to reflect on the man who is, surely, their most beloved son?

Incredibly, the dramatist achieves his extravagant goal with flair, warmth and a seemingly endless supply of chutzpah.

Playing on designer Claire Halleran’s neon-lit, hyper-real Scottish music club set, McNair dashes between microphones situated across the stage, taking on the characters of his respondents, regardless of age and gender.

With Jill O’Sullivan and Simon Liddell providing excellent musical accompaniment, the performer embodies a startling panoply of Scotland’s people, from the most loquacious to the positively taciturn. There are, needless to say, heart-warming memories of the campaign waged against Connolly by the fierce Calvinist clergyman Pastor Jack Glass (a self-defeating campaign, it has to be said, as it did more than any PR agency could to publicise the Big Yin’s shows).

Glass was, no doubt, outraged that the comedian had the temerity to perform while being Catholic (albeit a lapsed one). He was certainly incandescent about Connolly’s hilarious version of the crucifixion story, in which the Last Supper takes place, not in Galilee, but in the Gallowgate in Glasgow.

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That brilliantly Glaswegian piece of comic storytelling is remembered by many of McNair’s interviewees, and retold, in part, in the style, not of Connolly, but of a particularly enthusiastic respondent. That performative choice is part of the excellence of the show.

McNair bears more than a passing resemblance to a young Connolly (as a consequence of the performer allowing some recent growth in his curly hair and beard). However, he avoids the pitfall of impersonating the comedian (except when impersonating someone else impersonating Connolly).

Instead, Dear Billy is tightly directed (by Joe Douglas), brilliantly structured, fabulously performed and utterly hilarious. It is, in other words, the perfect tribute to a man who has left his gloriously indelible mark, not only on the art of stand-up comedy, but on the culture of Scotland.

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