Maggie & Me. Credit Mihaela Bodlovic.
Maggie & Me. Credit Mihaela Bodlovic.

Theatre review, Maggie & Me: Damian Barr’s memoir adaptation hits the stage

Ellie Forbes takes a rollercoaster ride through Damian Barr’s childhood in his adaptation of his memoir Maggie & Me.


Turning a story written about a writer, by a writer into a theatre production is no mean feat. But it’s fair to say Damian Barr has well and truly pulled it off with his heartachingly good adaptation of his 2013 memoir Maggie & Me.

Co-written with James Ley, Maggie & Me opens with Barr (played by Gary Lamont, who gives a compelling performance in the lead role) sitting at his laptop at home in Brighton in 2008.

Desperately trying to write the story of his childhood growing up gay in Glasgow during the 1980s, he finds he’s unable to immerse himself in the past, terrified of reliving the trauma.

Deadlines are missed, calls from his agent go unanswered and it all feels a bit restless. But the play kicks on when DB sees a therapist who forces him to recount the past in order to move forward.

For much of the production DB is in a dream-like state, moving through the memories which have shaped his life, from his parent’s divorce to homophobic abuse.

Credit Mihaela Bodlovic.

The set, which is littered with small televisions which help keep track of the timeline, moves from his present-day Brighton study, to DB’s home in Newarthill, the school library and Carfin Grotto. 

DB is tormented by the pain of his childhood and the agony of having to relive it, from his cruel introduction to high school to instances of physical abuse that are genuinely gut-turning. 

The musical numbers were a particular hit with the audience, and a welcomed break from the tension and sadness of the story.

There is much needed reprieve from the dark, painful memories through loving and comical interactions with his mother and best friend Heather – played by Nicola Jo Cully and Joanne Thomson who give equally sympathetic and hilarious performances. 

But being the 80s, there is another woman in DB’s life who plays a vital role – Margaret Thatcher – the only constant presence in his childhood.

Credit Mihaela Bodlovic.

The play is set against the backdrop of Thatcher’s war on trade unionists and their industries as she closes down The Ravenscraig steelworks where Barr’s father worked.

Despite the brutal reality of Maggie’s time in power and its effect on DB’s life, this is more than a reductive bashing of the Iron Lady, and there is much to laugh about through Beth Marshall’s satirical portrayal of the former Prime Minister.

Barr’s whole story is a forceful reminder of what life was like growing up gay in the 80s. It’s a sympathetic exploration of identity and what makes us who we are.

Striking the balance between devastatingly funny, through its larger than life characters, and gut wrenchingly poignant, Barr’s production is achingly good. 

I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days afterwards. A powerful show that grows in your memory.


Maggie & Me will be shown at The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, from 11-15 June. 

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