Breakfast with Burns
Finally, a few words from the lassies in his life
This article is from 2009.
250 years after his birth, more Scottish girls than ever have got the hots for The Bard. Alicia Devine sure does. The triumph of this raucous one-woman show is that as we hear from Burns’ mother, wife, and lovers. And from all the blethers between Alloway and Edinburgh, it’s Rabbie himself who becomes the dominating presence.
The script is sound, and offers a joyous study of the ways in which Scottish women express themselves. Devine’s lassies complain saucily of petticoats ruffled by "ink-stained, work-worn hands", and rail against his lechery. But they also sing his songs, clearly and brightly, and their gripes are soon buried beneath his lyric genius.
Rightly, there is some concern for how a philandering git exploited and abandoned vulnerable, illiterate, rural women, overawed by the lettered master of Enlightenment Edinburgh. Yet for a show conceived as a chance for the women around Burns to finally speak having sat silently by him on pages and in portraits for the past two centuries, any serious challenge it might have posed is not sustained. Burns’ heroism never finds itself in peril, and we know that either his charisma or his poetry will ride to the rescue in any case.
Popular critical reflection on Burns’ life remains overdue, especially in Scotland, where a bad word against The Bard earns you a deep-fried cultural fatwa. Just ask Jeremy Paxman. Actually, Burns’ work is so good that his status doesn’t have much to fear from a bit of character-bashing.
All this at a venue better known for its meatless menu of delights. Henderson’s thoughtfully-made programme is a most welcome addition to the Fringe. Staging work by talented, committed performers like Devine in a warm, stylish setting – and with delicious fresh food included for your tenner – it’s a great spot to spend an hour or two in August.
Hendersons, until 5 September, 10am, £10.