JOYCE MCMILLAN on TALES OF A GRANDSON at the Fesitval Theatre Studio, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 27.10.14.
4 stars ****
THERE ARE MANY ways of commemorating the mighty Scottish culture-maker Walter Scott, as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first Waverley novel. I doubt, though, whether Sir Walter could ever have imagined that his legacy would inspire an event as joyful, as free-flowing and as merrily imaginative as Andy Cannon’s new four-hour children’s epic Tales Of A Grandson.
Loosely based on Scott’s 1828 Tales Of A Grandfather – written to introduce his grandchildren to the basics of Scottish history – Cannon’s show is a three-part journey through parts of the same national story, delivered in three one-hour chunks, with long intervals for juice and snacks. Yet what makes it completely irresistible is the skill with which Cannon filters the historical exploration through the story of his own relationship with his beloved grandad, who, when he was a little lad, used to take him in his Hillman Imp to various important historical sites, from Glenrothes to Loch Ness; and through the work of a whole expanded team of artists, including three young dancers, a community cast of almost 20 female dancers and singers, and a five-piece ceilidh band.
The result is a glorious and expansive if distinctly shortbread-flavoured show about what Scotland’s national identity is, and how it might be passed on. And if there is the odd moment when the pace flags a little, or the movement seems a shade self-conscious, Cannon’s magnificent storyteling energy is unfailing; as is his inimitable power to draw the audience into the action, as key players in a national story that is still evolving in the most dramatic style, from day to day.