Don’t be fooled by the sucker punch breeziness of the Superman styled promo images that accompany the National Theatre of Scotland’s staging of Damian Barr’s 2013 memoir. While there are laughs to be had, Barr’s look back at growing up gay in small town 1980s Scotland can be a pretty brutal ride at times. 

Brought to life by Barr, co-writer James Ley and director Suba Das, we first meet DB celebrating his new commission with his husband Mark. But how to go about unearthing his personal remembrance of things past without avoiding the traumas that shaped him? 

The only answer, as DB is advised, is to relive it all, however painful that may be. 

This sends Barr on a trip that uses a similar sleight of hand to that used in TV fantasia, Ashes to Ashes, in which a retro kitsch setting is the backdrop for some very serious meditations on an era that had a lot more going on than its seeming revolt into style. 

In designer Kenneth MacLeod’s hands, Barr’s world looks like a Spitting Image version of Narnia, where Gary Lamont’s DB watches over his younger self.  As played by Sam Angell, Wee DB runs a gauntlet of playground homophobia and a brutal home life, all seen through the Thatcherite prism of the former Conservative Prime Minister’s destruction of industry and sanctioning of institutionalised prejudice. Over all this hangs the spectre of Maggie herself, with Beth Marshall channeling the spirit of the wicked witch of Westminster with arch ferocity.

All this is brought to life in a fearless and unflinching fashion in Das’ production, which takes its time to convey Barr’s mini series’ worth of storyline over its just shy of three-hour duration.  In the end, as DB finally meets his deadline, the ghosts of his life are immortalised in print even as they have been laid to rest in a story that is as much about purging as liberation.