JOYCE MCMILLAN on OOR SCOTLAND and OOR RABBIE at Dundee Rep, for The Scotsman 11.4.15.
4 stars ****
EVERY EASTER, at Dundee Rep, there’s a mini-festival of children’s theatre, stuffed with excellent entertainment for small folk enjoying a week or two off school. This week’s festival runs until tomorrow, with shows including Dundee Youth Theatre”s own version of The Little Prince. The Festival opened on Monday, though, with a virtuoso display of theatrical storytelling by the great Andy Cannon, formerly of Wee Stories; and if the sudden spring sunshine meant scanty audiences at the Rep, those who were there seemed utterly enthralled by Cannon’s twin monologues Oor Scotland and Oor Rabbie, both accompanied by superb live music – and the occasional song – from cellist Wendy Weatherby.
Both of these short, 50-minute pieces are re-workings of material from earlier shows, notably Cannon’s one-man version of Tam O’Shanter – which allows for a riotous audience-participation fianle to his brief introduction to the life and works of Robert Burns – and his four-hour 2014 children’s epic Tales Of A Grandson, the story of how Cannon’s own grandfather introduced him to Scottish history. There’s sometimes a slight sense of strain in these cut-down versions of Cannon’s storytelling, an anxious over-eagerness to communicate a certain kind of solid, mid-20th century Scottisness before it fades into history. Yet the quality of the narrative, and of Cannon’s engagement with the audience, draws the younger generation seamlessly into the experience of tea at grannie’s, over a copy of The People’s Friend; and then onwards, deep into the life and language of a nation, and of peoples who once did not think of themselves as a nation at all.