Burns for Beginners




Scottish Storytelling Centre (V30)

15, 22 August ONLY




This show has enormous potential: I’m very disappointed that, for me at least, it failed to deliver.


It was a good concept – demonstrate that Robert Burns is outstanding in so many genres: he wrote the best epic narrative poem, Tam O’Shanter, one of the best satires, Holy Wullie, the best love song of all time, Ae Fond Kiss, and a song which hymns the brotherhood of man and makes bosom friends of total strangers within seconds, Auld Lang Syne.  Unfortunately, the presentation didn’t match up to the idea.


The material was potentially good, but- just not put over well.  I had a sense that the words were being said or sung but without the emotional engagement of the performer that speaks directly to the listener, drawing them in and engaging them, speaking straight to the heart.  It was a pity about the singer, whose voice did not seem to be working well:  was she sick?  Why could she not stay within range of the microphone, and thus be better heard?


The show itself was a strange mixture of trying to be funny, to send up lit. crit. and academia and interpretation, and ‘giving the common touch’ – I wondered how much would be intelligible to the non-native English speaker – or, indeed, the non-Scot?  To me it fell between any number of stools, and didn’t hit any mark.


It’s a pity, because the potential for a cracking show was there, and in moments it took off: it came more to life in Tam O’Shanter – but even there didn’t completely grip me, and as for Ae fond kiss – I was far more deeply moved by the “I’m not a singer at all” singing of the poet Ken Cockburn who took us on a poetry tour Down The Mile than tonight’s singer: he sang it from his heart.  Is it the “I’m a folk singer so you’ll just hear the words and not notice the poor delivery”?  Or was I just not ‘getting it’??


Everyone else applauded wildly at the end.


Mary Woodward