The Outrun

Aug 14 2017 | By More

Playing With Books rehearsed reading

Charlotte Square (EIBF): Sat 12 Aug 2017
Review by Hugh Simpson

Playing With Books – the series of events devised by the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Royal Lyceum – got off to an enthralling start with The Outrun.

These events at the Book festival in Charlotte Square feature rehearsed, minimally staged readings, billed as ‘theatrical and musical exploration,’ followed by discussions with the author and creative teams.

Amy Liptrot

The three works are all recent, hugely successful Scottish books, the opening offering being playwright Stef Smith and director Eve Nicol’s version of Amy Liptrot’s memoir of nature, addiction and Orkney. The book has become a huge word-of-mouth success, winning prizes and clearly striking a chord with many people, as this event’s swift selling out testified.

The performance itself – despite being the equal in length of quite a few Fringe shows – had a tantalisingly fragmentary air to it, being based only on the first four chapters, with the definite feeling that there could be more to come.

Despite having only a couple of days to rehearse, it nevertheless had a compelling air. Beautifully performed by Frances Thorburn as the narrator figure and by John Kielty in a number of roles, Stef Smith’s script was no mere following of the book, rather seeking to reflect the text and ultimately ‘outrun’ it.

There were certainly some present who were wrong-footed by the number of conversations (and characters) that were not in the book, but on its own terms it worked very well, with Liptrot appearing surprised that Smith knew about things that did not appear in the book but could have done.

extreme dance music

Perhaps the most surprising element – and one that certainly seemed to leave Liptrot nonplussed – was the use of folky, acoustic versions of Eurodance hits No Limit and Rhythm is a Dancer. This was clearly an attempt to utilise Kielty and Thorburn’s considerable talents in this area, and was certainly effective, even if it did not quite reflect Liptrot’s preference for more extreme dance music.

Such tremorous beats were intended to be provided by DJ Cat Reilly’s musical accompaniment, but insufficient volume – probably intended to avoid shocking the Book Festival audience – meant that his was reduced to background colour and (through no fault of Reilly’s) did not have the required impact.

The following discussion, chaired by Lyceum chief David Greig, was illuminating and thought-provoking, but the overriding feeling of the audience was that they wanted more of the adaptation – perhaps, as someone suggested, something to be considered for a future Lyceum season.

This was exactly the sort of thing the Book Festival can provide. An intriguing, thoroughly playful yet ultimately serious examination of the interface between the written word and performance, as well as a celebration of a successful Scottish work obviously much cherished by many. It certainly whetted the appetite for the two upcoming events in the same strand.

The Outrun was part of the Playing With Books strand, a co-production between the Edinburgh international Book festival and the Royal Lyceum Theatre. The other two books to be presented are:

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnett.
Saturday 19 Aug 8pm (9.30pm), Garden Theatre.
This event is sold out but returns may be available on the day.

Dirt Road by James Kelman.
Saturday 26 Aug 8pm (9.30pm), Garden Theatre.
Tickets available at:

Æ’s listing of the Book Festival’s theatre-related events is here:

Book Fest on Stage

Click on the image for details of The Outrun on Amazon:


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