Aug 20 2015 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩   Promising start

theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (Venue 53): Mon 17 – Sun 23 Aug 2015

New company Third Degree Theatre’s musical presentation of the life of Robert Burns has a lot going for it. It may not be the most polished show on the Fringe, but there is certainly a great deal of talent in the company of teenagers.

Andrew Dallmeyer’s musical is presented here in a truncated form. As a result, there are moments that may be difficult to follow for anyone unfamiliar with his story, but this could certainly be a very useful vehicle aimed at the tourist market.

Sarah Brown, Adam Motio and Irene Vazquez-Scortti. Photo Ellie Innes

Sarah Brown, Adam Motio and Irene Vazquez-Scortti. Photo Ellie Innes

What may have been a little unwise is the use of tunes associated with songs by Burns, with new lyrics added. While these words are serviceable, they are certainly put into context when the original words of Ae Fond Kiss or A Red, Red Rose appear, and the new songs cannot help but appear thin by comparison.

It has to be said that the musical backing is consistently good here, with Kennedy Aitchison’s arrangements and Peter Thomson’s strong musical direction meaning this is an object lesson in making a four-piece band sound like a full pit orchestra.

For a first-time director, Matthew McVeigh has performed creditably. The ensembles are extremely tight vocally, and there is always something going on. Perhaps a little too much at times – there is one number where there is simply not the room on stage for the desired choreography, which leads to things getting ragged.

There is not much else to criticise, apart from one ill-advised X Factor routine whose staging obscures much of what is going on from the majority of the audience.

promising young performers

There are some promising young performers in the cast. Adam Motion’s Burns is a winningly cheeky stage presence, but does not have the strongest voice. This means that in his duets with his wife Jean Armour (Sarah Brown) he is occasionally overpowered. Brown is an impressive singer with an enviably pure voice, whose solos suggest genuine talent, but she could tone it down just a little when singing with others.

This is something Irene Vazquez-Scortti (Mrs Maclehose, aka ’Clarinda’), who is nearly as affecting a singer, understands, and her duet with Motion on Ae Fond Kiss is extremely moving as a result.

The structure of the piece means there are solo opportunities for others in the cast, with Maddy Baker and Orlagh McDonald displaying emotion and power. The males are on the whole less impressive vocally, but stronger at acting, particularly with regard to comedy. McVeigh himself shows a real comic talent as Lord Glencairn, while Josh Baillie’s publisher Creech is another striking cameo. Euan Gilroy’s Wullie is an effective foil to Burns.

If this is a version designed for performances by youngsters, there are some very strange vagaries of tone. While much of Burns’s life is cleaned up or not mentioned, there is still one sequence in a house of ill-repute that seems out of place.

There are occasions when members of the ensembles look a little sheepish or unrehearsed, but on the whole it runs smoothly, and promises well for the future of all concerned.

Running time 1 hour
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (Venue 53), Nicolson St, EH8 9DW
Monday 17 – Sunday 23 August 2015
Daily at 5.45 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/rabbie


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