Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"The World According to Bertie" - Edinburgh Fringe 2011

Those of you reading this review will almost certainly fall into one of two camps. One group who have read Alexander McCall Smith's '44 Scotland Street' stories and want to know how true this adaptation is to the novel. The second group needs to be reassured that your lack of knowledge of the books won't prevent you enjoying the show. Between us, Waldorf and I can answer your questions. It's been a while since she read them, but she confirms that Lydia Bruce and Sandy Burns' adaptation remains true to the spirit of the originals. And despite never having encountered the characters before, I absolutely loved it.

While much of the credit for its success has to go to McCall Smith, adapting such a complex set of interlinking tales could very easily have gone horribly wrong. Bruce & Burns have clearly given much thought to their approach, ensuring that although the central focus is on young Bertie and his family, there's no shortage of stage time for the other characters' stories to be played out. I say 'stage', but that's not really correct. In director Warren Cooper's inspired concept for staging the show, the audience are seated on (surprisingly comfortable) stools while the scenes are presented all around them - with Bertie's bedroom situated right in the middle of them. It's a high risk approach, but it pays off beautifully - giving a real sense of place to each location. The production is also blessed with an impressive cast who pitch their performances perfectly for what must be an awkward venue to perform in.

This is a charming piece of theatre told with such style that seeing it is a memorable experience. For those of us who don't choose to finish our evenings in Edinburgh with some late night comedy, this is the perfect show to round off your day. And it deserves to have a life far beyond the end of August.

The World According to Bertie runs at C Soco until the 29th August with performances at 19:20 and 21:00 each night (not the 15th)
Image used with permission