City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Johnson & Boswell Late but Live

By Vivien Devlin - Posted on 10 August 2007

Show details
Traverse Theatre
Blue Box Tours
Running time: 
Owen Lewis (Director), Stewart Lee (writer)
Miles Jupp (Boswell) Simon Munnery (Johnson) Neil Maclure (Piper) Mr Mac (drummer)

"I had desired to visit the Hebrides of Scotland so long that I scarcely remember how the wish was originally excited. And was in the Autumn of the year 1773 induced to undertake the journey by finding in Mr Boswell a companion .. whose gaiety of conversation and civility of manners are sufficient to counteract the inconveniences of travel ..."

The opening lines of "Johnson and Boswell, Tour to the Hebrides", written as two separate journals based on their travels across Scotland, first published 1775.

Fast forward 232 years and James Boswell has persuaded Dr. Samuel Johnson to visit Edinburgh again to take part in a "Late but Live" Fringe show at the Traverse Theatre. With a blast on the bagpipes and roll of the drums, Boswell (crisply portrayed by Miles Jupp) in smart gold brocade coat, breeches and white wig, presents an opening monologue to describe his "sophisticated, really funny" friend Johnson whose "priceless wit" coined the phrase, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life".

After this proud, sycophantic introduction, the famous lexicographer himself wanders on (brown tweed jacket, hat and mop of grey curls), apparently bored, grumpy and very rude about Dunbar, East Lothian, uncultured Scottish people, Ian Rankin and the Scottish Parliament.

The one hour comedy show is a Morecambe and Wise kind of double act, with musical interlude, a dramatised sketch of their journey by boat to Skye in a storm, audience participation, and extracts from their Journals, all coloured by Johnson's disparaging jokes about Scotland. His boorish manner is stylishly captured by Simon Munnery.

The concept behind this amusing wee show is certainly clever - as if Boswell and Johnson had been invited to the Edinburgh Book Festival 2007. They plug their book throughout - Birlinn £9.99 and on sale in the theatre. But somehow despite hilarious jokes, ridiculous characterisation and quick witted banter, this original 18th century comic double act needs more quality material to fill a one hour show.

Show times: 7-26 August, 10.30 pm
(excluding 13 & 20 August, 2007)