Museum After Hours: Friday Fringe Takeover *****

Cabaret and Variety

National Museum of Scotland

Venue 179

19.30 (FRIDAYS ONLY run ends 25th Aug)


 On Friday evenings in the Fringe, the Museum of Scotland closes its doors at its usual time, and then re-opens to ticket-holders and invited guests for an entertainment extravaganza that has something to please, intrigue, amuse and delight everyone: this particular Friday was no exception.


We are free to roam the museum at will; to visit the current ‘special’ exhibition on Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites; to hang around the bars and eating places, watching the world go by; to take part in drop-in activities, including dressing up; to have a private viewing of The Tomb: Ancient Egyptian Burial, guided by curator Margaret Maitland, and have the opportunity to handle Egyptian artefacts; and as if that’s not enough to satisfy the most exacting tastes, a full programme of music, circus, comedy, and magic acts perform on three separate stages, making you wish you could master the art of being in more than one place at any given time…


When I and my friend arrived, the place was buzzing!  The first and most important thing was to get our [temporary] Jacobite-themed tattoos – mine was of course going to be a thistle… I then got seduced into visiting the costume gallery, which my friend [unlike me, a regular Museum visitor] told me was a recent addition – oh my goodness the fun you could have deciding exactly which costume you most wanted to steal: and believe me, you’re spoilt for choice!   We then decided to investigate Bonnie Prince Charlie – but on the way I got sidetracked by some incredible 20th century ceramics, including pots by Shōji Hamada and Bernard Leach.


Finally, we made it into the Jacobite exhibition, to discover that crowds of other people had had the same idea.  I wonder why the Museum chose to put on this exhibition now, as it takes a long hard look at the Union of the Crowns, the Stuart and Hanoverian claims to the British crown, and the atrocities that were committed by the latter in the suppression of the former’s uprisings.  I also found it most interesting to discover how closely related the two families were, and to see how many Jacobite ‘relics’ ended up in the hands of the Hanoverians and were passed on to the current royal family.  There were some excellent video presentations, many splendid portraits and miniatures, [many of which were created for  distribution to loyal Jacobites] and a lot of other exhibits including gifts from Bonnie Prince Charlie to his loyal supporters after the disastrous defeat at Culloden, when the prince was helped to escape to France.  I found it hard to be very enthusiastic about the guns, swords, and armour on display, but appreciated many of the other items, including various documents written by major players in the drama.


There was so much to see in that exhibition that on leaving it I have to confess to being tired and longing for my bed…  on our way out of the museum, there were some seriously good acrobatic clowns doing their thing: I would have loved to stay, but (a) my feet were killing me and (b) the accompanying band’s music was reverberating so loudly round the main museum that my ears would have very soon joined my feet in protesting – a sure sign that I’m getting old!!


Most other people had more stamina, and were obviously going to stay on until they were thrown out – it’s a cracking night out, I had a great time, and I’m already looking forward to next year…


Mary Woodward