Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Morningside Malcolm Meets The Weegies
Robin Cairns (PBH Free Fringe)
Royal Oak, 1 Infirmary St
Malcolm is an artist from Morningside who’s about to launch his new installation art piece, The Bath of Shoes at a bijou gallery in Edinburgh when who should show up but an old school friend – from Glasgow.
One of the joys of the Fringe is the range of performing arts cultures one can sample. But sometimes it’s nice to see something with a real local flavour and this monologue from Robin Cairns’ is studded with characters and caricatures from both the upper echelons of Edinburgh society and those further down the societal ladder, who just happen to hail from Auld Reekie’s more prosaic sister city, Glasgow.
Malcolm is from Morningside, apparently. He’s an artiste in more ways than one and gives a whole new meaning to the word pretentious as he prepares to unveil his new piece of installation art, The Bath of Shoes, at a bijou gallery just opposite Peckham’s, the upmarket delicatessen. The trouble is, none of Edinburgh’s glitterati have turned up. He sent invitations to the great and the good of the art world, including his good friend Jack Vettriano (they met briefly twenty years ago when Malcolm wangled an invitation to an exclusive private viewing), but the only people that have showed up are his wife Katie and Crawford from his golf club, plus a couple of waifs and strays of indeterminate origin.
Yet, just as it looks as if The Bath of Shoes is going down the plughole, who should arrive but his old school pal Billy Urquhart, complete with a surgically enhanced girlfriend sporting a tan the colour of a breaded haddock. But wait a minute, Billy’s a Weegie and an east end Weegie at that, with all the mannerisms and cultural attributes to boot. How come he was at school with our Malcolm, a man who’s allergic to Leith, is prone to getting whiplash from blowing the froth off his cappuccino and according to his friends has never knowingly been west of the Waitrose on Morningside Road?
Now, for those of you not from these parts, perhaps a word or two of translation is merited. Morningside is the posh part of Edinburgh, where the ladies of the house think that ‘sex’ is something that the coal gets delivered in (say it out loud, you’ll get the drift). Leith is a district of Edinburgh held to be at the sleazier end of the spectrum by any self-respecting Morningsider. And ‘Weegie’ is the mildly disparaging term referring to someone from Glasgow.
Cairns’ piece plays very effectively on the snobbishness inherent in parts of Edinburgh society and neatly parodies the city’s centuries old rivalry with Glasgow. He also has a gentle dig at the pretentiousness inherent in a lot of modern art and a subtle poke at the ludicrous justification on which public arts funding is often based.
His characters are beautifully formed and he has an exquisite ear for the nuances of both Glasgow and Edinburgh accents and the respective local patois. His well researched and intensely amusing dialogue is laced with double entendre, innuendo and some superb one-liners and the story is very skillfully woven together, with the disparate threads conjoining in what can only be described as an uproarious conclusion.
This is an absolute wee gem of a show, one that is part of the Free Fringe and it was deservedly packed to the gunnels creating a great atmosphere. And if you slip a fiver into the collection plate as you leave then you also get a copy of Old Lochgelly, a collection of Cairns’ poems. Believe me, it’s worth the money.