The Ghosting of Robbie Burns
**** (4 stars)
Based on an idea by Alyson Orr, Gillian Duffy’s play brings the ghost of Rabbie Burns back to ‘life’ on his own Night. Once a year he returns to earth, and this year he meets Emily, a writer who has retired to the rural solitude of the remote cottage which used to belong to her aunt, in the hopes that she will be inspired to write and meet an ever-nearing deadline. Emily’s had a miserable journey and is feeling very sorry for herself. She turns on the radio to cheer herself up, but when she tunes into a Burns Night Special whose host cues in Charlie is my darlin’, Emily’s singing reveals that Charlie was her darling – before he broke her heart.
It’s a wild night, and Emily is alone in the middle of nowhere: suddenly there’s the sound of a horse’s hooves, a thunderous knocking on the door, and a man wearing a long black cloak enters the cottage. Emily fears the worst, but it’s not a burglar – it’s the Bard himself, come back just for the one night, and obviously believing that Emily is going to fall into his arms the instant she realises who he is. Emily is made of sterner stuff, however, and bitterly sceptical that the thing called ‘love’ exists, either in Burns’ time or today: Rabbie tries to convince her that love is real.
It’s a charming play, and the audience loved the earthy humour and boundless self-appreciation of John Kielty’s Burns, especially when he engaged audience members in conversation. Alyson Orr was spiky and hard to warm to, her inner defences against further hurt being so strong that she came over as hard and cynical while all the time being desperate to find love. Burns’ songs and poems were cleverly woven into the play, and beautifully delivered by both actors . I don’t know if I was convinced by Burns’ arguments in favour of love, but I found Emily’s cynical hard-heartedness equally unsatisfying, and the ending a little too flimsy. But it was a light and frothy romcom, after all, and I was perhaps searching for more depth and truthfulness than a work of this nature usually holds. It was a very pleasant evening which sent everyone home happy.
The Ghosting of Rabbie Burns, Run ended but tour continues until 22nd February.