Sunday, February 08, 2009

"Tam O'Shanter" - February 2009

Perth is a fair trek for us, so it requires something a bit special to justify the effort involved, and although Horsecross' interpretation of Rabbie Burns' "Tam O'Shanter" had caught our eye it wasn't really in our plans. But how could we not make the effort to see a show whose promotional materials include a Government Health Warning: "This play may contain more than the recommended daily units of alcohol"? And that kind of playfulness pretty much encapsulates creator and director Gerry Mulgrew's take on Burns' classic tale.

Recognising that a simple presentation of the text would be rather slight, Mulgrew has built a framework around it utilising some of Burns' other works for inspiration and throwing in some theatrical in jokes and other delights. While not all of these additions are entirely successful - the puppetry and face mask segments seem stretched - others such as the church and drink ordering scenes significantly enhance the whole.

The eleven strong cast are universally excellent and all bring their own specialties to the table through dance, music, recitation and song. Andy Clark as Tam and Robbie Jack as Rab Ruisseaux both give impressively physical performances including a Delboyesque pratfall by Clark. Claire Benson's dance contribution is striking, Kirstin McLean provides amusement as poor Meg and Brian MacAlpine produces memorable turns as the Minister and others. But these are only my personal favourites - the whole ensemble are superb.

This is a fantastically creative and imaginative production filled with moments of genius - the storm outside, the eightsome reel, the versatile bar/pulpit prop and some inspired 'aerial work'. It's just an absolute blast of energy and inventiveness while serving as a reminder that Burns is more than a portrait on a shortbread tin. No pretensions - just joyfully tongue-in-cheek.

And although it was more than worthy of our journey to Perth Theatre, I would hope that there will be a further life for this production - it certainly deserves one.

Tam O'Shanter runs at Perth Theatre until Saturday 14th February
Image used with permission