Stories are at the heart of a culture: its tradition, its knowledge, its humour and its values. A well-told story will draw you in and transport you away. This is exactly what Calum Lykan does in Brave and Free, which offers a little over an hour of tales and folklore from all across this country. As he explains the ceilidh culture of Scotland, Lykan evokes an age when the whole community would gather in a home to eat, to sing, to drink and share stories - and in a small but light room above the Royal Mile, he takes intimate group on a similar journey.
There’s no set list. The storyteller exercises his skill, adapting to suit the mood of the gathered audience, asking for suggestions and driving us through a full range of emotions. He can see us, engage with us, react to us - and we can see him become a lonely fisherman, a frog, a cunning trickster or a bloodthirsty giant. As we follow him across the country and overseas, we learn ever more of the complex web of folklore spanning Europe.
These wonderful tales fill you with emotion. I laughed heartily, I genuinely shed tears (twice in the same story), and in time I lost all sense of where I was. Though I sat in a small room overlooking the Mile I travelled over the mountains, across and under seas, into cottages and woods. I loved and lost and won the day.
With only his voice Calum draws you in, makes you jump, pulls you to the edge of your seat; his energy creates wonderful images. His accent is distinct but clear, and he explains the Scots words he uses, lending both lucidity and flavour to his show.
It is always the bane of the teller - unaided by script or prompt - to lose their place, stumble or forget a word. There were indeed such moments, but it’s a credit to Lykan’s skill and professionalism that it did so little to interrupt his flow. Most of his stories were so fluid and natural that they swept you along, engulfing you entirely.
In Brave and Free Calum Lykan expertly paints a picture of Scotland, through its tales and myths and legends. This show is completely suitable for older children (its length will present an issue for younger ones), but it shouldn’t be reserved for them. Stories from a man as engaging and entertaining as Lykan are sure to delight everyone.