Neil Forsyth’s fictional Dundonian character, Bob Servant, hilariously deals with the serious issue of spam emails extorting money under the guise of friendship and hard luck tales from abroad in the book Delete This at your Peril.
Joe Douglas’ one man true story is of his dealing with the same issue, persistent requests for money, but from the real person, Ronnie, that he had befriended during a gap year in Uganda.
An innocent enough text saying “Brother my sponsor has pulled out on me and I want to stay in school. Can you help? Ronnie x” is the trigger to ten years of giving, pretty much in secret, towards the end of which Joe questions whether he is ‘a saint, a philanthropist or just a mug’.
Joe had ignored his Scottish Auntie Maria, who sits virtually in the audience in the form of a Reserved notice with her name on it, when she told him as he left Uganda after immersing himself in its life, to “forget any residual guilt”.
Joe and Ronnie’s friendship was based on a shared Christian faith, a love of Manchester United and each teenage boy being part of a big family. As Walter Benjamin wrote, ‘friendliness is not the abolition of distance but the bringing of distance to life’ and the distance between Joe and Ronnie was much more than the physical measure of 4000 miles, but the vast difference in perception as to what it means to be poor.
Joe himself is a struggling student but translates Ronnie’s demands, an electronic extension of the outstretched hands that reached to the ‘whitey’ who was relatively fat and rich, to the equivalent number of pints he could afford and decides to help. Ronnie does not realize he is tapping in on a finite source, creating predictable guilt and anxiety for Joe.
This is an honest and stellar performance from Joe Douglas that is accompanied by a fine music track created by Michael John McCarthy of the Glasgow band Zoey Van Goey.
The set is simple but effective with a white desk and chair, a long board containing an image of books and a blackboard on a trestle that acts as the screen for the bright blue text messages that are typed on it creating an image of the muddle of words that may be what is in Joe’s mind during this imbalanced relationship.
The play takes the audience on a journey of moral questioning about humanity and relationships. Throughout, Joe used a tick system as he heard of Ronnie’s successes. I would like to award a giant TICK for this excellent piece of theatre . Ronnie's words were read by Claude Mutuyimana
This world premiere production of Educating Ronnie is part of the Made in Scotland Showcase 2012 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Show times & Tickets
Aug 6-9, 14-16, 21-23 13:15
Aug 4-5, 10-12, 17-19, 24-26 13:15