There must be something in the Irish psyche that is drawn to the absurd; a collective Hibernian impulse that has brought us the likes of Sterne, Joyce, Beckett and O’Brien, through to the contemporary genius of Father Ted.
Ian Macpherson is very much in this tradition, although this is not entirely obvious at first in The Everlasting Book Tour. It is presented very much as a straight reading of excerpts from his journal and from previously published work. It is only later that one comes to question whether these entries are as fictional as the works of fiction. Or whether the works of fiction are fictional. Or the fictional works are autobiographical. Indeed.
The problems are twofold: Macpherson’s delivery works on puns and wordplay – not always successfully. This is fine if you have the staccato delivery of a Tim Vine where the audience finds themselves two one-liners down the road before it sinks in that one was a bit rubbish. Macpherson’s lugubrious brogue allows each to bed in and grow roots; sometimes to audible discomfort from the audience. There are few things as painful as a sympathetic chuckle.
Secondly, the act feels like the worst kind of solipsism. Granted, it can be argued that all performance is solipsistic to a certain extent, and once it was apparent how The Everlasting Book Tour was being structured, and how Macpherson was wrapping the various layers of “Ian Macpherson” around himself, it was possible to derive sporadic enjoyment. It was just too self-aware, and a little pleased with itself.
It’s a shame, for he’s a fine writer – but sometimes written humour fails to translate to belly laughs, and this was undoubtedly the case here.