Tam O’Shanter (4 stars)

This article is from 2012

Tam O’Shanter

Earthy, energetic riff on Burns’ masterpiece

‘When chapman billies leave the street / And drouthy neibours, neibours meet’. It’s the best-kent pair of opening lines in Scots poetry, but if you were hoping for a straight rendition of Burns’ masterpiece, Communicado theatre company are more than happy to pull the rug out from under your expectations. Instead the 11-strong ensemble delivers a 90-minute riff on themes from the poem as well as several of the Bard’s other works and the wider Burns legend.

There are references to ploughing, Rabbie’s renowned promiscuity (culminating in a painful-looking rap on the nethers for actor Simon Donaldson), an extended pub scene and an inspired sequence in which an orgy rages among a church congregation while the cleric preaches hellfire from the pulpit.

While Gerry Mulgrew’s production is episodic in structure, the basic storyline of Tam’s (Sandy Nelson) ill-fated and inebriated journey home past Alloway Kirk survives, the original lines interwoven with amusing contemporary references and some lovely musical passages. The familiar Communicado technique of mingling the musicians with the actors onstage works well here, with Gerda Stevenson and Joyce Falconer giving particularly fine voice to musical director Jon Beales’ arrangements of the Bard’s ballads and sangs.

Overall the show has the feel of earthy, high-energy panto, the mix of live music, puppetry and movement reaching a superb crescendo in the kirkyard finale, with Courtnay Collins’ lithe interpretation of the witch Cutty Sark a treat to savour.

Assembly Halls, 623 3030, until 26 Aug, noon, £14--£15 (£13--£14).

Tam O'Shanter

  • 4 stars

Gerry Mulgrew's adaptation of the Burns classic offers a highly visual, musical and comical evening of theatre.