To understand Scotland, some would say, you have to embrace Burns. As a prolific poet who saw his surroundings through a very intimate lens, Burns’ works are immortal. In every sense a ‘heaven-taught ploughman’, he captured the essence of his country, its people, and his love like no other. Edinburgh Little Theatre, through a celebration of his works, tell us about the life and times of Scotland’s national poet.
Burns’ own story is well-documented; he lived the life of a playboy in the eighteenth century, and a lot of his correspondence has survived and been studied. What makes this production unusual is that it references the most famous of Burns’ works, but does not feel the need to address those directly. No, that would make this too much of a Burns Supper. What the crew do instead is use a mix of dialogue, poetry and song to create a biopic which is formed of lesser-known, but classic pieces.
The language is instantly recognisable, and the tunes are also distinctly Burns. His early relationships in boyhood are examined, as they no doubt inspired some of his later works: ghost stories from old Betty, his sister Agnes, and the disappointment of his father and his earliest teacher.
The actor playing Burns is superb in the role, and all of his supporting cast have amazing voices too. But this is all an easy sell, for the backdrop is always extremely well written poetry. One of his many loves inspires Ca’ the Yowes to the Knowes, and a period of deep depression leads him to write: But Misery and I must watch / The surly tempest blow: / And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!
Through these and other lines, we navigate his ups and downs, and use his works to pinpoint moments of his life where he felt a certain way. Credit must be given to the playwright for excellent research on the bard, and to the troupe for performing it wonderfully. This is classic Scottish theatre at its best!
If you have a guest visiting during the Fringe, point them here. The show ends with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne of course… oh, and the locally-sourced haggis was lovely.