Edinburgh Fringe Reviews
"Excellent Dramatisation of Adam Smith and his Views..."
"A detailed and uncompromisingly intellectual live docudrama with commentary on the life and times of Adam Smith, the father of modern Economics..."
"IT is not theatre so much as dedicated amateurs sharing their enthusiasm as well as a few rather scholarly insights into Scotland's bard through readings, reciting's and singing.
The Radicals, who say they are dedicated to staging the classical heritage of the Scottish Enlightenment no less, make clear they are not all professionals of stage and screen. And it shows. Yet their enthusiasm is contagious and the audience are encouraged to sing along with favourites A Man's a Man for A' That and Auld Lang Syne, which is well suited to the environs of St Mark's. Lesser known but no less pleasing songs also get a show – Of A' the Airts a nice choice, while Epistle to J Lapraik also gives scope to Burns' outlook on life and intellectual snobbery.
The scholarship is impressive but worn lightly, as readings from Burns' contemporaries, philosopher David Hume and economist Adam Smith, show how they influenced the often poor but well-educated poet. The narrator nicely points out his ongoing relevance – in Burns' time, too, there was recession and collapsing banks causing hardship across Scotland. In fact, never has Burns's poem, cheekily entitled in the programme as 'Lines Written on a Bank of Scotland One Guinea Note', sounded so fresh."
The Scotsman, 21st August, 2009
"The life and works of Burns are excellent material with which to introduce an audience to the Scottish Enlightenment and the radicalism generated at the intersection of philosophy and life. This informative retelling of the great man's upbringing and influences is neatly interwoven with his songs and poetry, all made accessible to those bemused by words like 'sleekit' and 'knappin-hammer' by a booklet which comes with the ticket. Achieving this ease of access while maintaining the original language is a triumph, one which culminates in the moving experience of joining hands to sing 'Auld Lang Syne'. Sometimes the acting is a little wooden and the teachings of Hume are slightly misrepresented, but it's a beautiful production for a' that."
Three Weeks, 21st August, 2009
"This delightful docudrama from multitalented, inclusive, locally based drama group The Radicals ..."
Karen Douglas http://www.uktheatre.net
Robert Burns, Scotland's Radically Enlightened Poet
Verdict: Enlightening docudrama through which Burns shines.
Edinburgh 09 – St. Mark's Unitarian Church – Castle Terrace – 9/11/16/23/30thAug 09 (80mins)
The Radicals are an inclusive, amateur company, who participate in the Edinburgh Festival in their own church, which is turned into a music and theatre venue during the Festival every year. It's a Unitarian Church and to begin this performance a candle is lit, honouring Unity and Brotherhood.
Robert Burns' writing was frequently about relationships and expression of his own belief in the Brotherhood of all mankind. This work is part of an ongoing series ' Philosophy on the Fringe' and part of ' Homecoming Scotland 2009 '. This is a National Celebration, gathering in Scots from all around the globe this year, to celebrate Robert Burns and to honour their own Scottish roots. Here Burns is splendidly embodied by Cameron Pirie. well supported by his brotherhood&sisters.
The Radicals theatre company exist to 'proclaim the Scottish Enlightenment and its relevance for today. Wally Shaw's well researched, historically accurate script is enthusiastically performed by talented members of this Unitarian congregation. The membership travels in from all of Edinburgh and the surrounding country areas. Many musicians, poets, actors and intellectuals of various disciplines choose to worship in this Unitarian Church, therefore the cast, drawn from the congregation, is far from the normal church am-dram group. In their ' Philosophy on the Fringe ' cannon, this particular play's purpose is to appreciate some of Burns' own work, in the light of the link it forms between the people, the land, the literature and the Scottish Enlightenment. The author wishes to enable us all to continue Burns' work, to understand it better and to create a better world.
A fine piper ( Allan Donohue ) standing at the door, facing Edinburgh Castle plays us in. Inside we are introduced to melodies on the piano, to which Burns ' My Love is like a Red Red Rose ', 'Flow gently sweet Afton' and other famous songs were set. Leslie Shaw played on 23rd August. On 9th a young American, Christopher Boerger did the honours. At this point The Sangsters enter. This choir laces the show with harmonised melody and appropriate Burns lyrics.
We're then introduced to the Narrator ( Margot Daru Elliott ) whose Cockney accent links the story being told with London's poor. She cheekily guides us through Robert Burn's life story. She skillfully and charmingly translates the more dense Scots language and inter-relates with Robert Burns, the choir and the bevy of Burns' beautiful women who grace the stage from time to time.
We are shown that William Burness ( David McGill ), Robert Burns' Kincardine born, Christian, educated father, taught him about the Bible. He also introduced him to the thoughts of Adam Smith and his Theory of Moral Sentiments. This pre-dated the world famous Wealth of Nations. David Hume ( Simon Byron ) and Adam Smith ( Andy Shaw ) both lived in Edinburgh when his farmer father helped lay out The Meadows in the city. Their work was discussed in the market places and bars of Edinburgh. William moved to Ayr and married. Despite financial difficulties, he made sure his children were educated by employing John Murdoch ( Ian Cameron) who was also employed to teach other families in the area. One of the subjects he taught was English. This meant Robert Burns could speak both Scots and English, crossing class boundaries.
William's wife Agnes Brown and relative, Betty Davidson, introduced young Rabbie to homespun poetry, folk stories and music. He developed his own poetry working in the fields. As he grew up Robert Burns saw his father ruined by over-work and banking crashes, living in dire poverty.
Adam Smith became the adult Burns' friend, preventing him moving to Jamaica and organising him work as an excise man. David Hume and he never met, but Burns did call at his home to thank him for the fine influence his work had had on his own thinking. Robert Burns romantic poetry tends to be given more media space than his political works, but any Scot will tell you, 'A Man's A Man fir a' That' is the most powerfully influential of his works among the People, here in Scotland and among the working peoples all around the world. We all have the chance to join with the choir towards the end of this docudrama and sing his splendid affirmation, “ For a' that and a' that, It's comin' yet for a' that, That Man tae Man, the warld o'er, shall brothers be for a' that.”
This production does Robert Burns proud. Time flies leaving one with a greater understanding of the influences which made work strong enough to become that of Scotland's National Bard, despite the fact he died in abject poverty in 1796. He died at 37, believing his life had lacked purpose and that he had failed to live up to his father's expectations. His work shines through in this production.
It shines through as fully relevant for now as it was in the 18th Century, expressing with humour and clarity, the thoughts of an intellectual powerhouse written in wonderfully pithy poetic Scots. For those who do not speak Scots, Wally Shaw has created a work which also includes simultaneous translations, well acted by his committed and talented company. They are open to traveling and the script is also available to buy, for performance by others. Www.livingphilosophy.org.uk
Cast Credits: ( alpha order ) Nahid Aslam – Agnes Maclehose. Gavin Bolus - David Hume. Simon Byrom – David Hume (23rd) /Caesar./ To a Mouse performer. Ian Cameron – John Murdoch/ Laird/ Epilogue. Susan Cameron – Miss Fontenelle (9th ) Margot Daru-Elliott – Narrator. Alan Donohoe – Piper. Billy Forgie – Gilbert Burness/ Luath owner's voice. Susan Forgie – Voice. Iria Forgie – Mary Campbell/ Voice. David McGill - To a Louse performer Ishbel McLachlan – Lady with Hat. Jose'e Mobbs – Miss Fontenelle Cameron Pirie – Robert Burns. Sangstream Singers - Choir. Andy Shaw – Adam Smith/ Luath/ Voice Wally Shaw – commentator /welcomer
Company Credits: writer – Wally Shaw. Script Editors – Peter Arter/Margot Daru-Elliott/ Ian Cameron. Director - Ian Cameron. Lighting – Peter Arter. Audience Spectator – Peter Arter Props – Billy Forgie. Costumes – Lynne Forgie. Vocal Coach – Margot Daru-Elliott. Filming – Simon Byrom. Photography – Simon Byrom/ Lidzi Wright. Video Recording – Simon Byrom. Producer – Ian Cameron. Front of House – Leslie Shaw/Alison Simpson/ Mary Cameron. Venue Manager – Edward Prince. Media Advisor & Website Manager – Andy Shaw. Graphic Designer – Emma Westwater www.designbysource.com
Sangstream Singers – Jane Angel, Barnaby Dellar, Shauna Dickson, Stuart Ferguson, Rona Fisher, Carol Forsyth, Judy Hardie, Sylvester Leyland, Maureen Morris, William Reid, Alexandra Salinasova, Elsa Sterling, Helen Wyllie. Www.sangstream.org.uk
Sponsors – Hand Up Media and Ethical TV, Ethical Publishing Media and Events, Katie and Tania. Company – The Radicals. Honourary President – Josee Mobbs
© Lilian Kennedy Brzoska 2009
reviewed Sunday 23rd August 09 / St. Mark's Unitarian Church, Castle Terrace, Edinburgh UK
Fringe Report © Fringe Report 2002 – 2009
3 Weeks Review - Adam Smith "Making Poverty History"
"This docudrama really highlighted for me the sense of community and togetherness that has served as the Fringe's basic premise for decades; a group of local folk joined forces to pay homage to the Scottish Enlightenment's key figures, an educational piece in its portrayals of David Hume and Adam Smith, and relevant ideas of the modern world. I really took to the performance after a slow start, which may be reflected by a lengthy performance time. This is a poignant reminder of the excellent things normal people can achieve."
2008 Edinburgh International Festival Fringe
Most recent review in The Church of England Newspaper
Friday, September 5 2008.
Reviewer: The Rev. Brian Cooper
A voice from the past highly influential today is that of 18 th century philosopher and economist Adam Smith, whose statue was unveiled in his home city Edinburgh earlier this summer. Adam Smith – Making Poverty History, Wally Shaw’s meticulously researched costume docudrama on his life and significance for today, skillfully presented by the Radicals, is a very informative and original work challenging popular stereotypes.
From Kirkcaldy childhood, studies at Glasgow and Oxford, and lectures as Professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow, to Grand Tour tutor and final Edinburgh years, Shaw reveals the remarkable breadth of Smith’s learning and international contacts, setting him and close friend David Hume as twin pillars of the Scottish Enlightenment.
Recalling his stature as a moral philosopher whose Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) won European acclaim, and quoting extensively from his letters and lectures, the play demolishes prevalent notions of Smith as father of a crudely laissez-faire capitalism untrammeled by state regulation and moral concern for the poor. His The Wealth of Nations (1776), never narrowly about economics, has been hijacked to justify acquisitiveness devoid of social responsibility, the dire consequences of which are all too evident today.
Seeing today’s world Smith would certainly back Make Poverty History. He wrote: “No society can surely be flourishing and happy, if the far greater number are poor and miserable.”
Doc-drama is no easy genre: Cameron Pirie’s accomplished title role, and Shaw and Margot Daru-Elliott’s total engagement as questioning commentator and strong narrator, ensure this one really works.
Jeremy Bentham Review at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2007
Malcolm Stewart - John Lewis Edinburgh Chronicle, 18 August 2007
JEREMY BENTHAM: THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS Rating: five stars
"A production likely to leave the viewer deeply engrossed " themes will ring a familiar bell with Partners."
The phrase "the pursuit of happiness" probably rings a bell with most Partners who recall Spedan Lewis's first principle in the constitution the Partnership's ultimate purpose is the happiness of all its members.
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was an 18 th century political philosopher, part of what's now known as the Enlightenment. Alongside such prominent Scots as David Hume and Adam Smith, Bentham, an Englishman, sought to scientifically order the world from a place of the Divine Right of Kings to a peaceful, happier world.
He was a utilitarian, where things were ordered by their usefulness, and believed rights to be "nonsense on stilts".
Bentham was raised on John Milton's Paradise Lost and believed that the only way that paradise on earth could be regained was through six fundamental things: happiness, compassion, wisdom, justice, integrity, and friendship.
Bentham pursued the idea of the greatest happiness for the greatest number relentlessly, believing it the only way forward, through democracy for all; he was dismayed at the poverty in Britain and throughout the world, and allied himself alongside Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations as nations became richer, he believed, so would their citizens become wealthier by virtue of hard work. The problem is that the greatest happiness for the greatest number means that there is a minority who are not happy.
Incensed by war, which he abhorred, Bentham believed in internationalism, and an international court of law. In future, he hoped, wars would be contested in a courtroom rather than a battlefield. He was instrumental in Wilberforce's Abolition of Slavery Act.
His ideas manifested themselves in the United Nations and the International Court of Justice established at The Hague in 1946, in the welfare state, and in the Human Rights Act.
The Radicals are a troop of very enthusiastic actors, mainly sixty plus. Their programme says that their plays 'do not require the learning of lines', which explains why each actor clutches their scripts. Even so, I was engrossed by this tale of an 18 th century philosopher and how his thoughts still have an important bearing on the world today.
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