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REVIEW: Burn (Scottish Tour) [Dance, Theatre, Play, Glasgow, Alan Cumming]

Updated: May 13, 2023

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

31 August 2022

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Credit: Tommy Ga-Ken

Burn is a new one man play from legendary Scottish actor Alan Cumming. It features the words of Rabbie Burns and is pitched as "dance-theatre".


"Burn challenges the ‘biscuit tin’ image of Scotland’s National Bard and goes beyond the poetry to focus on the man himself - his poverty, his personal tragedy, his struggles with mental health and his spectacular success."


When we enter the auditorium, the curtains are open and the stage is being battered by torrential rain and a very realistic thunder storm. Good to know the producers have been to Ayr. It's very realistic!

Credit: Tommy Ga-Ken

The piece starts with Rabbie being born in 1759 and it never lets up for a second. This is a one act play with a short 60 minute running time. During the hour Alan Cumming never stops moving. It's not dance, as in, you're not going to see Scottish Ballet or a Mathew Bourne spectacular... but it is a play with choreographed movement. And choreographed well.


The projections and lighting are the second character on stage with Alan. And they are magnificent! They really bring the monologue alive.


A few times I was reminded of Trainspotting. Near the beginning, when a hard dance beat drops and the background changes to the space field screensaver and Burns starts leaping about, I was waiting for him to shout "Choose Ayrshire, choose farming!"


Later on we are treated to what can only be described as a rave version of Scot Wa Hae. (If no one has set Burns poetry to dance music yet they should do. Guaranteed club classics.)

Credit: Tommy Ga-Ken

There are 'magic tricks' and props seemingly moving themselves on stage done to such a high standard they would not look out of place in Bedknobs & Broomsticks or The Cursed Child. The staging as a whole is very clever; with individual shoes used to represent the women in Burns life for example.


Cumming plays Burns with long dark hair and dark eyeshadow. Very much a Goth Burns! But I was onboard with it. He gave his all to the performance and the local Glasgow crowd loved it.


[Review first posted on Instagram 1 September 2022]


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