Monday, November 14, 2016

Tim McGarry Goes Over the Top - a funny yet at times tender exploration of 1916 and 2016

“If we don’t learn our history we might forget why we hate each other”

Can we laugh at history? In a town that celebrates the Titanic, its construction and ambition though not its sinking, can it not be appropriate to smirk at the absolute absurdity of events, even when they were deadly? On an island that builds mythology around history and struggles to distinguish truth from fable, don’t we owe it to ourselves to unwrap the events of the past and better understand them in any way we can?

Tim McGarry has been doing just that in his Goes Over the Top stand-up show that has toured Northern Ireland this year.

In amongst much material covering contemporary events ran a thread of historical reflection at events across the island and in the trenches of northern Europe during 1916. The same hand gestures and passionate delivery that were applied to jokes about the Royal Family or the First and deputy First Ministers were employed when McGarry cast his biting wit over historical remembrances.

As evidenced by the three series of Radio Ulster’s The Long and the Short of It with Tim McGarry examining historical events alongside “vertically challenged Orangeman and historian” David Hume, the comedian can hold his own in a debate over history.

I was in the audience for the 11 November show in Belfast Waterfront Studio, and the Remembrance Day date added a tender poignancy to some of McGarry’s material. While it was never going to be complete or thorough, the overview of events felt more truthful and less one-sided than some other performances I’ve witnessed this year.

While no doubt a result of my lack of appetite for history, McGarry’s descriptions of the scale of the losses at of the first day of fighting at the Somme struck home along with his explanations of the relative size of gun-running to arm the Ulster and Irish volunteers prior to war breaking out.

Aside from the history, we laughed at Nama, Panorama, Charles and Camilla, corgis, the main five parties, the PSNI and national anthems. With a skilled sense of timing and the patience to pause and wait for a laugh to erupt in one corner of the audience and ripple around the room, McGarry is a much more confident (and experienced) performer than his Ballymena warm-up Paddy McGaughey.

There are just two more dates on Tim McGarry’s (1916) Goes Over the Top tour: Friday 25 November at 8pm in The Burnavon in Cookstown and Saturday 26 at 7.30 in The Old Courthouse in Antrim.

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