Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Third Degree Theatre Company take us on a slimmed down and adapted version of Andrew Dalmeyer’s play with the life of Robert Burns as the focus. Here is not the sanitised biscuit tin version but a full bodied man whose life lurched from farming to fame, notoriety to the excise. With his death we see the women in his life find perspective on a life and man we adore to romanticise and make an enigma.
If there is anything left to say about Burns then I am yet to hear it. This is therefore both affectionate and a critique of a life that swayed from being a man in love to being a man in love … again. Third Degree tread familiar ground though Andrew Dalmeyer’s script delivers the whore houses, the kirk’s contempt of the man and the interest displayed by Lord Glencairn with enough gusto to perhaps offer a new perspective. It has some of the feel of the time and this young company work hard to bring it an authentic context.
That this has been put together in just over a week is pretty remarkable. Its greatest performance strength is the music. Familiar tunes bring with it that familiar warmth. Here though some have been given new words to help the narrative. It allows the tunes to be aired but you now have to concentrate on the message. There is a cracking house band under the tutelage of Peter Thompson and the songs delivered particularly by the women are on the money.
In terms of the acting and the ensemble pieces onstage there does need to be some work done on focussing with large groups. The space at Surgeon’s Hall is not the smallest but at times there were crowd scenes that needed clearer direction. Director Matthew McVeigh has worked hard to assemble a cast that could hold a tune and tell a story at the same time, sometimes though, rather than leaving some of their performances in the rehearsal room, there was a feeling that scenes needed further work in a rehearsal room to make them work.
There is also the issue of mics. I always feel you should mic all or mic none. Here some have their mics and can be heard very clearly. When others arrive, without amplification then it sounds unbalanced – because it is. Scene changes ought, also, to be slick. There is little to move and therefore people left onstage when the lights come up or rushing to get to the stage when the lights go down can be off putting.
This is a local effort that had brought many out to see it in the theatre and was a worthy and worthwhile exercise. One of the interesting aspects of this was the script. I would love to see the fuller version of the script performed and hope that Dalmeyer can find someone to give it a proper airing. What I would ditch though is the strange Burns factor section, though Keith from Dalkeith was a shining highlight.
As for the company, this shows just why the creative spirit of the Fringe is so darn important; they took a risk and their genuine, honest enthusiasm pulled something off. It may not have been perfect but it was a perfect opportunity for all of this young cast to shine and shine they did.