If all the plays about Robert Burns produced over the last two decades were laid end to end, they’d surely build a bridge to Belgium, yet there’s still an appetite for such pieces at this time of year. And why not - there’s no shortage of colour to his life, and no one questions his position of National Bard. The problem though, is that this particular loch has been fished out, a case demonstrated by Mike Gibb’s new piece.
In it, we are given an account of Burns’ (George Drennan) more than usually above the waist affair with Nancy McLehose (Sabrina Carter) and his venting of his sexual frustration upon her servant, the hapless Jenny Clow (Gillian Budd, also playing the equally put-upon Jean Armour). While the piece might be of interest to those unsated by accounts of Burns’ life thus far, there’s a certain stodginess in the telling, and perhaps simply not enough to the story, to make a night out for most. Although there’s a couple of lively numbers (‘Came Home’, which sees Burns subjected to some ribaldry after returning from his failed overtures to Nancy and impregnation of Jenny is cleverly boisterous) there is also the odd spot of cliché in Gibb’s lyrics and dialogue. There are, on the upside, a couple of nice performances, with Drennan in particular putting in a Bard day’s night. But whether Suzanne Lofthus’ production, even given an improved second act, escapes the drudgery of its pacing and premise is a moot point.