Robert Burns: Rough Cut

Aug 21 2016 | By More

★★★☆☆  Smooth

Scottish Storytelling Centre (Venue 30): Thurs 4 – Sun 28 Aug 2016
Review by Hugh Simpson

Revealing and emotional, Robert Burns: Rough Cut at the Storytelling Centre presents a thoroughly believable portrait of the poet.

Donald Smith’s play, which he also directs, is based on his novel Between Ourselves, which details Burns’s time in Edinburgh.

Gavin Paul as Burns. Photo: Rough Cut Robbin Productions

Gavin Paul as Burns. Photo: Rough Cut Robbin Productions

Mixing established fact with informed speculation, the play presents Burns as a complex, contradictory and not entirely attractive figure. Struggling with his finances and patronised by Edinburgh society as the ‘heaven taught ploughman’, his attempts to assert himself lead him into sexual conquests and ill-advised encounters with the criminal underworld.

Gavin Paul’s portrayal of Burns is a captivating and subtle one, and he carries the show expertly. His anger, self-doubt and introspection are well expressed, with some believably raw emotions on show. If at times the exuberant, lively performance becomes a shade over-emphatic, this is wholly in keeping with the man who is trying to prove his intellectual worth to those city residents who consider him a country boy who can be palmed off with promises of later payment.

intimate and entrancing

Where it falls down a little is in the strictly chronological, day-by-day nature of the story, which tends to the mechanical. The material about Scottish theatre is well done, but takes up too much of the running time. A storyline about a supposed relationship with Deacon Brodie – seemingly added because, while there is no proof it ever happened, there is no proof that it didn’t – peters out and adds little.

The dramatic impact overall is strong, however. In a small room, with a stark set and a simple, hugely effective lighting system, Paul’s performance is intimate and entrancing, giving a real flavour of Burns that will appeal both to devotees and to those with no knowledge of him.

Running time: 1 hour 5 minutes (no interval)
Scottish Storytelling Centre (Venue 30), 43-45 High Street, EH1 1SR
Thursday 4 – Sunday 28 August 2016
Daily (not Mon 15, 22) at 3.30 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website:
Company website:
Facebook: roughcutrobin


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