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Edinburgh International Festival: Burn – King’s Theatre

Reviewer: Dominic Corr

Created & Choreographed by Alan Cumming and Steven Hoggett

Oh, but what a dreich evening, thunderstruck, with nought but misery lingering in the air. The silhouette of a lanky haired fella’ seems to brave the torrents atop the distressed boards with not but his clothes, his paper and quill, perhaps you know him? Robert. Rabbie. Burns. Scotland’s bard. Scotland’s favourite. Scotland’s original bad boy rock star

Gesture marred to word, together, locked in an eternity of recitation, Alan Cumming extends himself to the letters, ballads, and sonnets of the man in the cascading rain, the wispish and woeful Burns, captured in Cumming’s eternally mischievous face illuminated by the crashing light which distorts and re-emerges as a timeline Andrzej Goulding’s video design flashing with dates, quotations and flickers of the endless Scottish landscape.

Hoggett & Cumming’s choreography focuses intently on either end of Burn’s spectrum of turmoil or ecstasy – from the poverty-stricken concerns through to the endless, lustful affairs which furthered his romanticised notions. Their concept furthers the self-destructive nature of Burn life, one where his art hardly paid off his grave, since the world leased him his cradle.

Dystopic flourishes of light erupt throughout the evening, a charged atmosphere to further commit to Anna Meredith bombastically soundtrack, channelled through Cumming’s body and thrust out into the ravenous crowd. And from Jeanie, to Elizabeth, to the string of women who influenced and partook of his life, their physical representation a pendulum of shoes and nightgowns strewed with sonnets continue to offering additional dimensions to the complexities and intricacies of Burn’s desperation and struggles with mental health, and his relationship with others.

In honesty, Burn is not strictly a dance or movement-based performance, but, in essence, a state of being – If anything, a harlequin telling of the tale – surging, chaotic but glorious. And this nature of betwixt and between, though tricky to nail down, the flickering embers of Cumming’s spectacular recitations and movements, does require a sense of control which at times lapses.

The truth is in the name, as the Bard burning his candle at either end for the resulting illuminations to forge a path of creativity, was, to many, his eventual youthful downfall. Blazing once again, Burn has a reinstated Burns in the world, though that place was never really questioned. Cumming’s exceptionally captivating performance, mingling Scottish country dance with interpretative style serves as a snap explosion of the potential in our short lives.

Runs at the King’s Theatre until August 10 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Captivating

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The Reviews Hub - Scotland

The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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