Four years ago, Stuart McPherson graduated from the University of Dundee with a 2:1 in English Literature. It’s safe to say that things haven’t quite gone as planned since then. After an ill-fated spell upselling baked potatoes to latte drinkers in a train station, he’s gone on to finally land a job connected to his degree – advice dispenser in a Harry Potter-themed escape room. Sweet success at long last!
McPherson mines both menial roles for plenty of wry insights about the difficulties of being a millennial and the general uphill battle facing young people today. It’s a formula he’ll follow for much of the show: identifying areas where he hasn’t lived up to the benchmarks set by his family members or erstwhile acquaintances, then ridiculing both himself and the situation with droll self-deprecation.
It’s a particularly Scottish trait and the idea of nationality is one which McPherson will return to again and again, playing compare-and-contrast with his and his English girlfriend’s worldviews, as well as the stingy nature of the over-50 Scottish male. Other standout moments from the set include an on-point takedown of hipster barbers and a comparison of his own shabby flat with the relative palace owned by his parents.
Other material isn’t quite so honed. A diatribe against the wealthier members of society runs out of steam before it really gets going, while a similar invective against a friend who has recently joined that elitist rank limps into a dead end. As for the title of the show, other than bookending it with The National song of the same name, no explanation is given.
In McPherson’s defence, this is the final date of his run and the temperature down in the cramped confines of Monkey Barrel 5 is high enough to warrant a sick day if it had shown up on a schoolboy’s thermometer. As such, some leeway can surely be afforded with regard to the organisation and energy in the show, but even without it, he proves himself a highly capable young Scottish comic with just the right amount of keen insight and devil-may-shrug attitude to make it to the top.