Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Morningside Malcolm is such a loser. But that’s what makes him so funny. And so easily identifiable.
Robin Cairns first brought his alter ego, Morningside Malcolm, to the Fringe in 2011 for a week at a very small venue. Now Malcie is here for the duration and in the centre of town, the atmospheric Venue54 on North Bridge. That’s a tribute to the reputation Cairns has built as a storyteller and his ability to connect the unique psyche of upper class Edinburgh man with his somewhat more earthy compatriot from Glasgow, the Weegie.
For those of you that haven’t been around these past three years, a summary of the plot so far. Malcolm lives in Morningside. He’s allergic to Leith and is such a wimp that he’s at risk from to getting whiplash blowing the froth off his café latte in Waitrose. So you can imagine his horror when, last year his only daughter, Jennifer, married a Weegie. And not just any old Weegie, but the son of Big Urquie, someone he thought he’d left behind at St Abbs Junior School in the underdeveloped far west. For Malcolm, it was a step too far. After all, it was a mixed marriage – bride from Edinburgh, groom from Glasgow. And with Jennifer now in charge of her ned-of-a-husband’s “ice cream” van business (yeah, yeah, it also does a sideline in something that looks like talcum powder), things are looking socially bleak for our Malcolm.
And it just gets worse. Carried away by his own enthusiasm at a charity auction in a fashionable part of town, Malcolm accidentally auctions off Edinburgh’s prize asset. No, not the trams, but the pandas. Cue mayhem as the world’s media (well, The Daily Record and The Herald) descend to dissect the story – and Malcolm. He’s forced to hole up in the garden shed as the police and several thousand panda fans bay for his blood.
To describe this year’s plot as labyrinthine does it an injustice, but Cairns’ precise definition of each of its many characters (the ned, Brian, and Lee-Ann, Big Urquie’s silicone and plastically enhanced wife are just two of the stand-outs) ensures that we always know just where we are and who is doing what to whom. Indeed, with the care he puts into voice, body posture and mannerisms, Cairns has moved beyond mere storytelling and has turned this into full-blown theatre.
There is much, rich material in the fifty-five minutes to admire as a stream of one-liners and parodies are skillfully woven around the plot itself and you feel that you’ve met, or at least know by sight, all of the characters who in it – some you’d cross the road to avoid, others remind you alarmingly of yourself.
So, did Malcolm recover the pandas? And just what was the outcome of all those calls he made to a late-night helpline? I’m saying nothing. But watch out for that little man from Pilton.
This show comes highly recommended for anyone with even a slight interest in the Scot’s psyche. And when the audience stays behind afterwards, swopping notes on what’s happened, reliving previous stories and speculating on what the next instalment (in 2015) will contain, you know that the artist has nailed it.