City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

RLSDay: Stevenson to the breathing flesh in Shedden's Portrayal


By Lindsay Corr - Posted on 10 November 2015

John Shedden as Robert Louis Stevenson in The Laird of Samoa

This week marks the 5th RLSDay organised by Edinburgh City of Literature, so in celebration it's a week long event with 47 events taking place throughout Edinburgh.

A man who knows a lot about Robert Louis Stevenson is the actor John Shedden. Involved in RLSDay since its inception at various events, Shedden has covered everything from Kidnapped to Travels with a Donkey, and has portrayed Stevenson across the world from the Cevennes to San Francisco, Saranac to Samoa.

This Thursday he takes to the stage for an unmissable performance for Stevenson fans in a one man play, The Laird of Samoa.

The late John Cargill Thompson, who Shedden met while they were both studying at RSAMD in Glasgow in the 1960's, wrote The Laird of Samoa 21 years ago in 1994 especially for his friend John Shedden as part of the RLS Centenary as he knew he wanted to tell Stevenson's story and there was only one man who could portray it.

Directed by Mark Taylor, John Cargill Thompson's script takes us on a pilgrimage through the life of RLS, from childhood in the cold Edinburgh of pillars, prostitutes and prejudices, to maturity in America and finally the South Sea islands. Beginning in Samoa where he settled, we delve into Stevenson's memories as he ponders life's journey.

When Shedden worked with Mark Taylor on a production for the Edinburgh Anatomy Museum in 2014 it transpired that they both had a connection with John Cargill Thompson, as Taylor knew him in the late 90’s just before he passed away in 2000 and both got to reminiscing.

Since Laird was written for Shedden and since Taylor was involved in RLS Day, it made sense to dust off the old velvet jacket and breathe life back into this wonderful depiction of Stevenson’s life, with Taylor remarking that Thompson's script "radiates Stevenson's authentic voice - intimate, humorous, powerful."

The Laird premiered at the Cafe Royal during the 1994 Edinburgh Fringe, then was later seen at the Netherbow Theatre, where it returns on Thursday 12 November as part of the Scottish Storytelling Centre's RLSDay programme. Passionate, sensuous, intelligent and patriotic, John Shedden's acclaimed performance is Stevenson to the breathing flesh.

The Laird of Samoa is on at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on Thursday 12 November at 2pm and 7.30pm: www.scottishstorytellingcentre.co.uk

More on RLSDay.