Tam O'Shanter Review
As Tam struggles home after another big Saturday night of boozing, up in the morning early is a certain Rab Ruisseaux, ploughman and aspiring poet. He may be struggling for inspiration but the aid of his muse, dalliances with bonnie lasses and drink are clearly going to stir him – and get him into trouble.
Burns’ epic poem is in some way a gift to the stage as it’s inherently theatrical and already has a cinematographic scope, seeing Tam from both afar and cutting to the action as viewed through his eyes. And in this way we zoom to the peddlers preparing to leave the street and spend the money that they have earned, selling fake D&G designer wear and Pierre Cardenden socks, in the local hostelry and get unco happy.
But haud on! Just as the focus switches to his ain wife Kate, waiting angrily at home for him, the characters want to go off the page to examine whether there’s “complicity for this lack of domesticity;" “Who’s to blame hen or cock?” This is clearly going to be no traditional recitation.
Instead, we join the locals in the pub, as the storm roars outside for a night that’s part ceilidh, part Scottish variety theatre as each of the characters does a “turn”, expanding the tale and weaving the poem with a selection of Burns’ songs, while throwing in just about every theatrical device.
There is more than a nod at the liberties taken with the added Burns-esque lines with the always self-aware characters wondering if they can get away with a “crude insertion”.
It’s a wild ride and those without some knowledge of Burns or the story will just have to hang on tight. The “marriage counselling” idea may get lost amongst the other themes that reel off in tangents and the narrative as a whole is not always clear. But in the end it doesn’t really matter, as at the core there is always the glorious, nearly heroic Tam.
This inventive production is hugely enjoyable and melds fond and fun with a lascivious undercurrent. It may be a cautionary tale, but I just wanted to go find Tam and Johnny, head to the nearest pub and do it all over again.
Show Times: Runs to 26 August 2012 (not 13, 20); 12 noon.
Ticket Prices: £14 (£13) – 9, 14-16, 21-22 August. £15 (£14) – other dates.