Resurrecting Bobby Awl (3 stars)

This article is from 2019

Resurrecting Bobby Awl

credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

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).

Resurrecting Bobby Awl

  • 3 stars

Avalon and BBC Arts Born in the nineteenth century and kept in the toe of a boot hung above a fire, Bobby Awl grew to become a feature of the Fleshmarket Steps. Famous in his time but wiped out of history by Messrs Burke and Hare, Bobby's life had passed into the void until his death mask was discovered by international…