Resurrecting Bobby Awl @ Summerhall
A splendidly morose surprise that celebrates the life and death of a man who you never knew while trawling the history of Edinburgh
Some few hundred years ago in Auld Reekie, there was a man who was cast aside for his ‘oddness’ – his ash-grey skin, his rupturing scalp and a harrowing grin on a face which cannot laugh. The erosion of time would eradicate this gentleman from the gruesome historic tales of Edinburgh, but this August he returns to the stage. In a city of the dead – of body snatchers and dissection – people are at work in Resurrecting Bobby Awl. This is a splendidly morose surprise emerging from the Fringe's glorious undergrowth. With comedy, poetry, theatrics and lashings of more comedy, this production pushes itself in what it achieves.
From birth to death casting, Bobby Awl lies before us, warts, bones, celery and all. Our three leads, guides on this journey of re-invention, trawl the history of Edinburgh, charmingly illustrating on chalk-board tables. Storytelling is an art, one which this team have mastery of through the lyrical construction of this piece.
With accurate timing, the comedy on offer ranges from obvious to subtle. Along with writing akin to that of Neil Gaiman, the entire premise is sold by the three performers below us who drudge this forgotten tale to its feet.
In an uneven manoeuvre, though, a running routine throughout the performance falters the ending. Humorous at first, by the finale, there is a perplexing move which makes for a well-meaning but disappointing end to the piece.
Celebrate the life and death of a man who you never knew. Do not pity nor mock this ‘poor fellow’ for his fate, many would share. Instead, join in the resurrection of Robert Kirkwood, you’ll be pressed to find a better example of the richness language can bestow, and the inventiveness of live theatre.
Resurrecting Bobby Awl, Summerhall (Anatomy Lecture Theatre), until 25 Aug (not 12, 19), 4pm, £15-14