Chris McQueer: The Madness of Reality

words fae shaun mccluskey (@shaunmccluskey)
photo fae vanessa murphy (@vanessamurphy)

Glasgow’s Chris McQueer is kept busy with his full-time job where he dishes out tankings for a living. But on the odd occasion where everyone has been tanked for the day and he isn’t hanging out with his best friend, Brian from Glow – he can often be found relaxing and unwinding, typing away at his computer: sending tweets and writing short stories… both of which he’s actually very good at. On Thursday night, McQueer – who, for the record, shat it from my offer of a fight – put on his longest show to date in Ashton Lane’s Grosvenor Cinema. A whole 2 hours of stories, stand-up and short films. Whilst he may have found the running time daunting, it honestly flew in and was an absolute delight from start to end.

Chris read a selection of short stories from his debut book Hings to kick off the evening’s proceedings. It has been described by many as ‘Limmy meets Irvine Welsh’, and such comparisons are certainly justified. Less than a year from its release, Hings has become somewhat of a cult classic amongst Glasgow’s literary and non-literary scene. It’s received great reviews from the press, people have taken it on holiday with them and posted photos with it across the world, a friend of mine was even given it as a leaving present from his work – and folk that I know full well canny read have posted about how much they love it. Chris has made reading cool again for those of us with a vernacular so often looked down upon.

I’ve had the pleasure of digitally knowing (@ChrisMcQueer) for the past couple of years. I stumbled across a story of his about a mind-controlling Moth, and it was clear even then that he had a real knack for storytelling. Over the years, Chris’ stories have only gotten better, with his latest short ‘Afterlife’ offering a comical take on what comes next and the sort of food you can expect your granny to cook for you when you get there. Last year, Chris quit his job selling shoes + signed a publishing deal with 404ink. It wasn’t long until HINGS began to come together for the man aff Twitter.

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Chris spoke during the show about his time selling shoes, notably one interaction with a kid and his dad, and how it inspired his story ‘Crisp Packets’. In the story, the boy is told that footballers had to wear empty crisp packets on their feet in the days before fitba bits were invented. He then makes an absolute arse of himself on live telly when he grows up to become a football pundit. We were also treated to a new story, ‘Sammy the Crime Scene Cleaner’, from Chris’ as of yet untitled second book which is (hopefully) set to be released this Autumn.

McQueer’s work is grounded in the absurd nature of daily life in Glasgow. Therefore, The Madness of Reality is the perfect title for the show, because that’s exactly what it is: surrealist observational comedy, in realistic and familiar settings. His stories are so honestly told, with such great characters, that you listen to them thinking ‘this isn’t even surreal in the traditional sense, but this could definitely only happen in Glasgow’.

The biggest thing that I took away from the show was just how well McQueer’s written material translates into different mediums, and how great the short film adaptations of his work were. Working alongside Grave Day Productions (David Gray and Kris Cummins who produce content for BBC the Social + BBC Short Stuff), two of McQueer’s existing works were transformed into hilarious laugh-a-second shorts. ‘The Wee Voice’ sees David eat a urinal cake following instruction from his intrusive thoughts which suggests ‘come on, it’ll be funny’. ‘Mairried’ tells the story of a wee Glesga gran that discovers she hates her husband and the way that he eats prawn crackers after 50 years of marriage. And film three features a new story, co-produced by the trio, entitled ‘Road Closed’ which follows the pursuits of a young couple who encountered a road closure, on their way to their holidays at the most Instagram-able lodge in the country. I’ll leave that one at that because you’re going to absolutely love experiencing that one with no prior knowledge when it becomes available online.

The show was followed by a short Q+A, and a Santa’s grotto style Meet and Greet where you got to sit on the big man’s lap and tell him what you wanted for Christmas (the hottest new gaming device, new gutties and a copy of Hings 2 pretty please). Chris McQueer is an absolute natural storyteller and performer, with a very bright future ahead of him.

Hings is available from here and all good bookstores.

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