The Deil’s Awa’

Aug 12 2022 | By More

★★★★☆     Devilishly funny

Mayfield Salisbury Church (Venue 11): Sat 6 – Fri 26 Aug 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson

Edinburgh People’s Theatre attack The Deil’s Awa’ at Mayfield Salisbury Church with such humour and panache that the result is nigh on irresistible.

EPT’s time-honoured relationship with the Fringe means that they can celebrate their own anniversaries, such as the 50 years since they first performed this play.

Joanna Meiklejohn, Ronnie Millar, Iain Fraser and Dylan Flahive-Malcolm. Pic: Lynsey Spence.

Written for them by long-standing company member Alan Cochrane, it deals (as the title hints) with the arrival of the Excise agents to Pittenweem, just as the Horsburgh family have come into possession of some shipwrecked bottles of French brandy. Attempts to outwit the authorities lead to swapped identities and romantic misunderstandings.

Even if some elements of the play show their age a little, it is a superbly constructed piece that is written in a couthy and versatile Scots that is easily accessible to all, and displays real warmth and humour.

To say that the denouement is predictable would be an understatement, but it never drags, and is here performed with such understanding that the end result is entirely satisfactory.


Director Irene Beaver and assistant Lynn Cameron have marshalled their troops expertly, with a wonderful feel of cohesion. It is easy to believe that this really is a family, with their frustrations, irritations and deep underlying affection.

Mandy Black holds it all together as the matriarch Maggie Horsburgh, displaying an enviable command of comedy, all gesture and glance, milking the comedy without ever overdoing it.

She is matched in the exasperation stakes by Iain Fraser as her father-in-law Duncan, all goggle eyes, puffed cheeks and cheeky grins, like Granpaw Broon and Oor Wullie inhabiting the same body.

Mandy Black, Iain Fraser, Graham Bell, Dylan Flahive-Malcolm, Euan McIntyre, Stephanie Hammond, Ronnie Millar and Anne Mackenzie. Pic: Lynsey Spence.

Ronnie Millar gives Maggie’s husband Duncan a resigned stoicism that works very well in contrast, with an equal understanding of timing.

Stephanie McIntyre’s Kirsty Horsburgh (shockingly still unmarried at 26!) is played with a lightness of touch that is extremely effective, with Dylan Flahive-Malcolm giving her brother Andrew a winsome charm.

Next-door neighbour Kate Dalrymple is Duncan’s apparent old flame, who soon gets involved in the somewhat unlikely identity-swap plot. Anne Mackenzie plays the character with just the right amount of exaggeration. Her daughter Bessie is a similarly over-the-top role, played by Joanna Meiklejohn with considerable relish.

attention to detail

Graham Bell, as the blustering exciseman and Euan McIntyre, as his more upstanding assistant, both provide well drawn characterisations.

There is an attention to detail throughout, which is exemplified by the extraordinarily sturdy set. Designed by Beaver and Black, and constructed by Sylwester Wojcik and Gordon Braidwood, it looks for all the world as if someone’s house has been dropped on the stage. Not the least impressive thing about the play is how it makes such good use of one setting, and the set takes full advantage of this.

After much discussion during the last two years about how the Fringe can reconsider itself, it seems to have come back this year even more over-centralised, full of power grabs by big venues and with as little idea as ever of how to recast itself for the future.

If there is a spirit to the Fringe, however, it is surely in productions like this – rooted in the community, conscious of tradition, and full of fun.

Running time: Two hours 15 minutes (including one interval)
Mayfield Salisbury Church, 18 West Mayfield, EH9 1TQ (venue 11)
Friday 5 – Saturday 20 August 2022
Mon – Fri at 7.30 pm; Sat at 2.30 pm
Information and tickets: Book here.

Company website:
Instagram: @epeoplestheatre
Facebook: @EdinburghPeoplesTheatre
Twitter: @EPeoplesTheatre.

Stephanie Hammond, Ronnie Millar, Euan McIntyre, Joanna Meiklejohn, Dylan Flahive-Malcolm, Anne Mackenzie, Mandy Black and Iain Fraser. Pic Lynsey Spence.


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Comments (2)

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  1. Irene Beaver says:

    Thanks so much, Hugh.

  2. Thank you Hugh. It has been great fun. says:

    Great fun with a great company.