Review by Marie-Claire Taylor

There are no certainties in this life. Except that you die. This (bleak) premise is key in the one-man show, A Gambler’s Guide to Dying.

Though incredibly dark, the story has an unshakable optimism that lurches from tall-tale to tall-tale, told through an array of characters, all brought to life by actor John Burrows. There is no other person seen throughout the show and only some occasional cues from the soundtrack – that signal a change in scene – punctuate Burrow’s constant soliloquy. The Grandson (Burrow) regales us for an hour expounding the virtues of his dearly, departed Grandfather.

Set in rural Scotland, the narrative leaps around the Grandson’s inner dialogue and his many conversations with his Grandfather and his many conversations about his Grandfather. The Grandson wants to find truth in Grandad’s stories and bonds with the old man by placing bets at the local ‘bookies’.

It’s not a typical picture of family values, but somehow it seems wholesome. In fact, many in attendance at the Basement Studio seemed to be enjoying time with their parents.

Burrows acts as both the Grandson, his school teacher, the schoolyard bully, mum, grasping aunty Carol, uncle and of course Grandfather, while being simultaneously in conversation with himself.

Despite being chaotic, the dialogue delivers some truths that are uncomfortable but unshakably true. “You can’t take it with you when you go” was my favourite. Or maybe even, “You need to lose hundreds of times before you win”. “Heroic” was the immediate proclamation of one audience member upon thunderous applause at the show’s end. And that was hard to disagree with.


What: A Gambler’s Guide to Dying
Where: Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Avenue, Auckland
When: 12 – 23 June 2018
Price: $20 – $25

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