Revelations of Rab McVie

Aug 26 2023 | By More

★★★★★    Stunning

Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33): Thu 24 – Fri 25 Aug 2023
Review by Allan Wilson

Revelations of Rab McVie is a stunning piece of multimedia theatre, combining live music, live painting and raw performance, to create a truly remarkable production, at the Pleasance for two performances only.

Edinburgh’s own The Filthy Tongues provide the driving rock soundtrack, the projections are of Maria Rud’s atmospheric paintings onto a giant screen at the back of the stage and the superbly dramatic performance of Rud’s lyrical script is from Tam Dean Burn as Everyman-figure, Rab McVie.

Tam Dean Burn silhouetted in front of Maria Rud’s live visuals. Pic: Pavlos Papageorgiou

The play opens with the Filthy Tongues set up, stage right led by co-creative director Martin Metcalfe, while a mainly black, still, lino-cut image is projected on the screen. In a clever move, this image is quickly rolled away, leaving a blank screen for co-creative director Maria Rud, to play with.

The blank screen is actually the projection of a white acrylic sheet onto which Rud adds and transforms patterns of paint. Occasionally the shadow of Rud’s hair is projected onto the screen as she leans over her work, changing the various elements in her composition.

A figure dressed in a black overcoat and a black hat sways onto the stage, supporting himself with what appears to be a walking stick, but turns out to be a microphone stand. Against the mainly black background, he is sometimes hard to see clearly, but this is Rab McVie, magnificently portrayed by Tam Dean Burn.

temperature rises

As the show progresses and the temperature rises, he gradually strips to the waist, letting us see the sweat pour off his body. Due to a technical issue – the failure of Burn’s radio mike – the night Æ was in, he had to battle to make himself heard against the power of a five-piece rock band in full flow, but generally succeeded.

Tam Dean Burn in front of Maria Rud’s live visuals. Pic: Pavlos Papageorgiou

It is a tribute to Burn’s vocal strength and acting ability that he was able to make himself understood for the most part

Rab dreams of waking in a house of mazes which he has to explore, and doors behind each of which lies a new revelation, beautifully illustrated by Rud. As he finds new horrors on his journey, Burns screams and contorts his body with new levels of pain, and hints of madness, as he hopes to find one last door that will take him home to wake up in safety.

All the while Derek Kelly on drums, Asim Rasool on percussion, Finlay Wilson on bass, and Alex Shedlock on guitar establishing a driving rhythm in support of Metcalfe on guitar and vocals. Shedlock also plays keyboards on some of the production’s quieter, more atmospheric songs.


Over the course of the production, Rud creates houses with a couple of brush strokes, only destroy them later with the wipe of cloth. A river and boats are formed as the band sing about the Water of Leith keeping on rising.

Finlay Wilson, Martin Metcalfe, Tam Dean Burn and Maria Rud. Pic Pavlos Papageorgiou

An image of a black dog comes to life, to be transformed into a wolf, a cow, and then a bull. Horses appear and are given mythical wings, their riders have giant curved sabres to wave menacingly. A large fish is painted and covered with symbols – a representation of the Salmon of Knowledge of Celtic mythology, perhaps? Within seconds, its flesh disappears, leaving only a skeleton.

It is astonishing that Rud can create and transform so many stunning images so quickly throughout the production. One image of a figure with a face covered with ice crystals as Rab finds himself in the Kingdom of Ice is particularly memorable.

disparate areas

Much credit is due to Director, Maria Pattinson, for managing to pull together so much talent from disparate areas of visual art, music and performance to form such a coherent whole. I doubt if there is anything remotely similar to this remarkable production anywhere else on the Fringe, this year. If you missed it, we can only hope that it will come back some time in the near future.

Running time: One hour (no interval)
Pleasance Courtyard (The Grand), 60 Pleasance, EH8 9TJ (Venue 33)
Thursday 24 – Friday 25 August 2023
Daily: 3.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Our previous review of the show is here: ★★★★☆ Fascinating

Maria Rud links

Twitter: @MariaRudArt
Facebook: @maria.rud.9
Instagram: @mariarud_art


Martin Metcalfe and Tam Dean Burn. Pic: Pavlos Papageorgiou.



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