Haggis, Neeps and Burns

Aug 17 2019 | By More

★★★☆☆    Lunchtime sustenance

Hill St Theatre (Venue 41): Fri 2– Sun 25 Aug 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

A pleasing willingness to let Robert Burns speak for himself gives Haggis, Neeps and Burns by Edinburgh Little Theatre at Hill Street a straightforward charm.

As so often in recent years, there is no shortage of Scotland’s most celebrated poet, songwriter and collector on this year’s Fringe. From performances of his work to evocations of his life and loves, there is plenty for newcomers and experts alike to experience.

The Cast of Haggis, Neeps and Burns. Pic: Edinburgh Little Theatre

In particular, there seem to be a couple of ‘new musicals’ about Burns every year. Rest assured there is no such gilding of the lily here, being a more uncomplicated depiction of his life using his poetry and song.

This production’s USP is the free haggis, neeps and tatties given to the audience before the performance. Otherwise, this is a well enough structured production, both informative and enjoyable.

Its concentration on Burns’s womanising gives a rather one-dimensional view, and a determination to pack so much narrative in does makes it a little superficial at times – something reinforced by the truncated nature of some of the offerings from his canon.

raffish charm

This, together with the staging (which verges on the unimaginative), the proffered refreshment and the closing chorus of Auld Lang Syne, suggests this is aimed squarely at the tourist market. But it is no worse for that, and performed with skill.

Gilchrist Muir’s Burns has a raffish charm ideal for the role, while Peter Deeny, who has much of the narration as his brother Gilbert, is calmly authoritative.

Bo Gourley and Ellie Duncan convince as two of the more important female presences in the poet’s life, with Gourley’s depiction of his wife Jean Armour particularly strong. Paul Murray (who also directs), Hazel Murray and Georgie Herriot complete an ensemble which is used with some flexibility.

There is a lot packed in here – a less exhaustive approach would have given the material more room to breathe. The unaccompanied singing is not always entirely convincing, but some of the chorus numbers work very well.

The determination not to reinvent the wheel, but instead to let the material shine through, is one of the best things about this production. As an introduction to Burns, it works very well.

Running time 1 hour 10 minutes (no interval)
Hill Street Theatre, 41 HillStreet, EH2 3JP (Venue 41)
Friday 2 – Sunday 25 August 2019
Daily at 12 noon
Tickets and details: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/haggis-neeps-and-burns

Website: http://edinburghlittletheatre.com
Facebook: @Edinburghlittletheatre
Twitter: @edlittletheatre


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