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A song in thy praise

The Life and Times of Robert Burns Hopscotch Theatre Company Touring until June 30

Ross Stenhouse, who wrote and stars in The Life and Times of Robert Burns, cannot remember quite how many productions Hopscotch Theatre Company has toured in the 13 years since he and Grant Smeaton set it up, but thinks "it must be over 40", a remarkable record which shows no sign of ending.

He leads from the front in this flashback version of Burns's life, starting and ending at his death bed. As ever, subversive comedy lurks in the script. Stenhouse gives us the young countryman in comic extremities of bashfulness when harvesting with the blacksmith's daughter and later, when the passionate man is wooing with love verses, we are treated to less-than-romantic "earlier versions".

Hugh Larkin plays all the other male roles and some o the female (and the mandoline). He is something of a Hopscotch veteran.

They are joined by two actresses new to the company. Audrey Blair is a graceful recipient of Burns's first love and Joyce Falconer swops easily from gruff farmer to alluring Jeannie. Both sing attractively.

Costume designer Anna Cocciadiferro dresses the play with a romantic flourish. Catherine Lindow provides an elaborate setting for the whistle-stop tour of Burn's life, songs and poetry, getting into her stride early with a full-size plough and glove-puppet mouse.

There's much use of the man's poems and songs, even though the primary children find the language difficult. The teachers were encouraging, singing along with "Ae Fond Kiss" and the rest, until we all joined in "Auld Lang Syne".

Hopscotch, tel 0141 440 2025

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