theSpace @ Venue 45
What would my visit to the Edinburgh Fringe be without engaging with some of the country’s own cultural bedrock? After offering a free dram of whisky on entry, Tam O’ Shanter, Whisky & Tales introduces three poems by Robert Burns; ‘Tam O’ Shanter’, ‘Death and Dr Hornbook’ and ‘Address to the Deil’. These supernatural yet comical narratives follow drunken escapades with witches, complaints from the figure of Death, and the mischievous nature of the Devil. Alongside the three poems, we are also told the Scottish folktales of The Witch of Fife and The Haunted Ships. Artistic Director (writer and performer) Andy Dickinson neatly stitches these tales together in a routine that finds thematic links yet remains fresh throughout.
Though the recitations include the old Scots language, with thick Scottish accents that my ear had to wriggle its way around, the animated storytelling with character interactions and playful inflections create a vivid picture of each tale. The use of dialectal language roots it in authenticity. Shian Denovan’s performance is particularly captivating as her oration deftly speaks to the audience, steering the material with ease and presenting Burns’ poetry in all its glory. However, some performances could have benefitted from more confidence and conviction.
The performers sit on wooden logs, drinking from beer bottles and enjoying the warmth of a fire. Playing in theSpace @ Venue 45, one of the festival’s original venues just off the Royal Mile, the audience is wrapped around the performance, lending to an authentic campfire storytelling experience.
Between each poem, Douglas Caird charms us with traditional tunes on the accordion, which allows for further immersion in the Scottish milieu and provides well-timed lighter moments amongst the wicked nature of the tales. Dominic Brennan’s sound design is another highlight of the piece. There is great depth to the audio effectively establishing a supernatural tone and giving us a sense of the locations.
Stolen Elephant Theatre presents an accomplished piece of theatre featuring well-handled wit, sublime Gothicism and bewitching performances.
Associate director: Emily Ingram
Sound design: Dominic Brennan
Tam O’ Shanter’s Whisky & Tales played as part of EdFringe 2022.