Nina Gilligan’s story could easily be presented as a sob story, but rather than fall into the ditch of an X-factor-esque, tear-jerking background she presents her life and journey to find her identity as an inspirational one, doused in hilarity and vitalised by very personable and amicable energy. Her tales of her adoption and her ‘gingerness’ are punctuated by innumerable fascinating characters from spooky nuns to pyromaniac brothers, and about every combination of personalities in between. All of them played a part in Gilligan’s growth into the person she is now and the identity she proudly presents.
In classic Fringe style, audience participation is expertly tangled into the show. John, a sweet but quiet seeming gentleman from ‘the North’ has his DNA quite hilariously collected as Gilligan multitasks in delivering some intriguing and incredibly funny facts about DNA as the comically casual and elongated swapping took place. The eligibility of John’s candidacy for a long-lost family member is measured through questioning the chance of his presence in Salford during the 70s, his gingerness and his partiality to chicken and potatoes.
Despite being an hour of deeply personal and often introspective wondering, the permeating sense of intimacy does not prevent Gilligan’s acute and witty perception of the world around and outside of her from cutting through when appropriate. Jabs at the rather hectic political and cultural climate we live in leap in and out of her set with boundless originality and flare. Even the singular pun she exclaims is well-received as she ecstatically justifies “come on! Every show is allowed one pun. Just one!” It seems fair; a singular dad-joke within an hour-long set is more than acceptable, especially when in this instance it is actually amusing.
An undertone of sexual promiscuity is made all the funnier upon her announcement that her 20-year-old son is sitting directly in her line of sight (followed by a semi-serious request that he cover his ears for the following gag). This highlights the very appropriate close proximity of performer and audience, as the smallish dimly lit room with several faded hazes of colour and the projection of a double-helix all perfectly suit the overarching themes of the show.
Gilligan’s venturing through the world of adoption, trying to reunite with her biological family and discovering her own identity are all truly breath-taking. At some points maintaining dry eyes is the task at hand, at others, the task turns to capturing your composure amidst raptures of laughter. Her bubbly personality excitedly imbues the crowd with a sense of wisdom and uplifts them with positivity, all whilst simultaneously tickling their funny bones with an ever-present wit and tactful hilarity.
Nina Gilligan – Broad Shoulders
Runs 3-25 August (excluding 12th)
Just the Tonic @ The Caves – Just up the stairs
Buy tickets here
Image: RARA photography (@raraphotography)