Edinburgh Fringe 2013
His son-in-law’s a nerd, his wife is part of the Weegie ice-cream mafia but his daughter has just produced a son and heir. Is Malcolm’s resolve against all things Weegie weakening?
Two years ago, Robin Cairns brought his alter ego, Morningside Malcolm, to the Fringe for just a week in a quiet backwater of the Fringe. Now Malcolm is here for the duration in a much more central part of town, the atmospheric Jazz Bar on Chambers Street. That’s a tribute to the reputation Cairns has built as a storyteller, for the strength of his main character and for his ability to connect that unique psyche of upper class Edinburgh man with his somewhat more earthy compatriots from Glasgow, the Weegies.
For those of you that haven’t been around these past two years, a summary of the plot so far. Malcolm lives in Morningside. He’s the sort of man that’s allergic to Leith and holds in high disregard anything or anyone that hails from the west of Waitrose in Stockbridge. So you can imagine his horror when he found out last year that his only daughter was getting married to a Weegie. Not any old Weegie mind you, but the son of someone he thought he’d left long in his past, a former acquaintance from St Abbs Junior School in the far west. It felt like a step too far. After all, it was a mixed marriage – bride from Edinburgh, groom from Glasgow.
Roll forward 12 months and the beautiful couple has already produced a wee bairn, muling and puking in the arms of his ned-like father, Brian, at the expensively arranged and catered christening chez Malcolm. It’s all become too much for Malcolm, and we find him hiding in the broom cupboard, seeking solace from acquired in-laws Billy Urquhart and his wife Lee-Ann (she with a tan like a breaded haddock). From this dark and lonely place, Malcolm regales us with the tale of woe that has been his life these past 12 months.
It started straight after that wedding when Malcolm and Kate took a restorative cultural break in Spain, only to discover daughter and all his newly acquired in-laws on a nudist beach, with daughter already showing signs of early pregnancy. It gets worse. Kate, ever the entrepreneur, takes on the running of Billy’s Glasgow ice-cream round which strangely seems to sell more baking powder than vanilla cones. Kate is in awe of the Weegie’s apparent enthusiasm for cake baking and when her best friend lands her with several gallons of hallucinogenic mushroom soup, things really start to get out of hand.
Cairns’ evocative monologue plays brilliantly on the snobbishness inherent in parts of Edinburgh society and neatly parodies the city’s centuries old rivalry with Glasgow. His characters are many and beautifully formed – there’s Crawford and his wife, the three in-laws, his wife and daughter and, of course, that lovely little man from Pilton. He also has an exquisite ear for the nuances of both Glasgow and Edinburgh accents and the respective local patois. His well-researched and amusing dialogue is laced with double entendre, innuendo and some superb one-liners. There are four or five seemingly disparate themes to his story which are very skillfully woven together to conjoin in a creative conclusion that sees Malcolm emerge as an unlikely hero.
Three episodes in and it’s starting to feel like a nice alternative to soap opera so I wonder what Malcolm will be up to over the next 12 months. And watch out for that little man from Pilton – he gets about a bit as well.
So, is it worth a visit? The beauty of Fringereview having abandoned a “star” rating system is that I can hedge the bet for you. If you’re familiar with the age-old rivalry between Glasgow and Edinburgh and reasonably conversant in the respective patois and humour, then I’d highly recommend it. If not, you may still like it, but, like the English lady in front of me, take a local along with you to provide simultaneous translation as required.