Resurrecting Bobby Awl
- Adam Bloodworth
- 12 August 2019
This article is from 2019
Summerhall's most memorable performance space is the ideal setting for this story about a forgotten Scottish legend
The anatomy operating theatre at Summerhall, which dates back to 1916, is the most stirring setting imaginable for B.Catling's new play about Bobby Awl, a disabled Victorian child who went on to be abandoned by his family because of his disability. Homeless and destitute, he became a familiar face on the streets of Edinburgh.
Mock-ups of relics from Bobby's life are used to tell his tragic story by a cast of three, who deliver directly to the audience, making the most of this naturally theatrical setting. B. Catling himself rediscovered the tale of Bobby Awl – lost for generations – while doing research, and there are reasons other than his Scottishness to premiere this play at the Fringe. There are plenty of nods to a broken social justice system. In one scene, the cast describes how Bobby had developed a 'nasty' temperament, and the script asks: was Bobby poor because he was nasty – or nasty because he was poor?
It's a sensitive way of addressing how today's social justice system is broken too, if not quite as badly as it was for Bobby. The cast do a good job of delivering a script full of thickly woven creative and descriptive language but audiences will leave wondering why Bobby's story in particular is worthy of an entire stand-alone play.
Summerhall, until 25 Aug (not 19), 4pm, £15 (£14).