Robert Burns: Rough Cut *****


Scottish Storytelling Centre

Venue 30

15.30 (run ends 27th Aug, not 14th, 21st)


This show was one of the highlights of my Fringe this year, and in the presence of a master wordsmith I am floundering as I try to put into words why it shone so…


We are invited upstairs to the library of the Storytelling Centre, and step back in time to the Edinburgh of Burns’ day as we are invited into the humble room the poet lived in during his stay in the city in the 1780s.


Burns himself is there to greet us, and shares with us his frustration with publishers in general and William Creech in particular, and with the hypocrisy of Edinburgh ‘society’ which controls all matters artistic in the city and deplores the use of anything but the [Hanoverian] King’s English, frowning on the poet’s use of his native Scots tongue.  He tells us about some of his exploits – both salubrious and less so – and his amatory adventures: we meet some of Burns’ friends, ‘Clarinda’ and her maid Jenny, and the mysterious Deacon, who presides over an establishment of questionable reputation and appears to have unlimited power and influence in the city.


Gavin Paul is simply magnificent as Burns: the magic of his voice, the expressiveness of his language, his chameleon-like changes of mood and manner, and his irresistibly magnetic personality – no wonder he was such a success with the ladies!  He held us all enthralled: if he’d beckoned would we not have gone with him?  The lyrical beauty of Burns’ prose overflowed into poetry and song as he honestly recounted all levels of experience – this was no languid poet, but a full-blooded human being, alive, vivid, joyful, tender, and so passionate in everything he did.


How can I say anything that means anything and is not simply tired cliché?  Oh for a poet’s tongue to begin to describe what was enchantment of the highest order: I can’t recommend this show too highly.


Mary Woodward