The Scots Festival
Anithir Festival Fringe lours. Curtains are tae raise aa ower Embra as thirty thoosan fowk, performin in twa thoosan shaws tak the stage.
Whiles walein a shaw fae oot the thrang can be a guessin gemme. Tae help yis oot, wiv previewed a mixter-maxter o shaws whit a hae ae connection; they aa yaise Scots.
There’s a gruin-brakin opera. There’s a nicht o traditional sang, there’s auld Italian theatre owerset intae Scots, an there’s a weel-kent ae-woman shaw that’s nae lang back fae a tour o the kintrae.
O is for Hoolet by Ishbel McFarlene explores whit Scots is the day. She ettles tae gie the audience an innin tae the leid fae ilka airt, includin fae ootside, quotin fae academics, fae inside, quotin fae Burns, an fae doonwards, quotin fae hersel as a bairn. Ishbel says Hoolet’s “aboot Scots at its core, but it’s aboot politics and pooer – aw leid is.”
O is for Hoolet hus lately been at the hert o a tour re-introducin Scotland tae its ain leid. A Creative Learning leader (Michael Dempster) ran warkshops in scuils in the efternin, an Ishbel pit oan her shaw at local venues the same nicht. The tour gied Ishbel new insichts intae Scots.
“A hud Scots speakers wha hid nae idea whit they were speakin wis a leid. A went tae scuils whaur the staff hud nae bother speakin with the bairns in Scots, whether it wis aboot no cuttin across the grass, or settin up the animation saftware oan the computer. A fun that non-native speakers wis wantin tae learn, but felt they’d nae richt tae. The hail o Buckie seemed tae be confident, fluent Doric spikkers – the wummin at the Post Office, the man at the Coop – een whan fowk spak English tae them, they spoke Doric back, an there wis nivver ony problem. It disnae matter if yer different tongues is ‘leids’ or ‘dialects’. The leid/dialect hing bothers fowk, but ma view oan it noo is this: fuck it. A speak it. A learn it. A yaise it. A teach it. It’s mines.”
Whit’s the maist common spierin fae her audience? “What does the word baffies mean and is it Scots?” she tells us. “Its frequency is, A think, connectit wi the fact that Scots isnae visible ootside the hame. It’s a suprise for fowk tae learn that ‘baffies’ is yaised ootside o Clydebank, or their scuil. Scots jist isnae visible eneuch in the public sphere.”
Tae improve the visibility o Scots, Ishbel an ithirs are collectin photaes, an quotes o Scots fae owre tha hail o the festival; “hings written oan posters, or cafe blackboards, or signs in shoppies, een the patter o street artists. Visibility an audibility halps wi the reality o a leid. We wannae celebrate it. Bella readers can gies a haun tae collect them bi taggin photies/videos oan Twitter or Instagram wi the hashtag #FringeScots”
Scottish Storytelling Centre, (Venue 30) 7pm 12th-29th August (not Mondays)
The Descent o’ Orpheus tae the Underwarl by Ayrshire Opera is an owresettin o an auld French opera fae 1686, La descente d’Orphée aux enfers bi Marc-Antoine Charpentier, intil Scots
The tale taks us doon tae the underwarl o Greek mythology, whaur oor hero Orpheus gings in search o his newly deid wife Eurydice. Giftit wi sang sae saft and bonnie that nane can refuse him, Orpheus ettles tae save his pairtner fae the clutches o Pluto, high heid yin o the warld ablow wir feet. Nae spoilers, but.
The owresettin fae French intil Scots wis the wark o Chris Waddell fae the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. This isnae Waddell’s, nor Ayrshire Opera’s furst wee bairnie steps in the warld o Scots opera. Baith hae aaready markit their nemmes in history ae year syne wi the production o Actéon meets Tam o Shanter, the furst Opera in Scots, anithir owresttin o Charpentier bi Waddell.
The shaw’s Creative Director, as weel’s its tenor, is West coast chiel David Douglas. It wis David’s love o Scots sang that gard him big a brig atween his classical operatic scuilin an the rich Scots o his native Ayrshire, he telt us. “The Scots taks the hail wark in a new airt, gies it a new smeddum. Opera companies aa owre the yird hae owreset Operas intae their ain leid, an Ah was fair tane wi the idea o owresettin ane intae Scots.” The enterprise wis aidit bi Michael Dempster, wha gied assistance bi “relatin Scots soonds tae phonetic alphabet” fir the fowk wha didnae ken Scots.
The opera has but a wee twa-nicht run at this year’s Fringe sae tak tent an dinnae miss this neer-afore-seen spectacle. David Douglas’ troops promise baith beautiful music an “Scots [that gies the piece] a folk-like storytellin quality.”
Lauriston Halls (venue 163), 6.30pm 11th an 12th August
Ane Servant o’ Twa Maisters is a play whit follays the tale of Archie Broon fae Dundee, a servant wha fins hissel servin twa maisters at the ae inn in Embra. This is anithir owresettin o a European wark, this ane an adaptation o an Italian comedy bi Scottish actor an screiver Victor Carlin. Accordin tae an airticle bi kenspeckle Scots-leid academic J. Derrick McClure, this owresettin wis ane o a hail wheen o dramas adaptit intil Scots fae the European oeuvre in the 20th century. This an ithir warks were made tae coonter the “almost total failure [of the Scottish literary tradition] to develop a substantial corpus of drama” in ony o wir three leids in the preceedin centuries (in pairt due tae the inherently crabbit natur o the Presbytarians wha held sway owre wir cultur in thae doolsome days).
Carlin ‘naturalised’ the original Italian text, wi the dramatis personae flittin fae Italy tae Embra. The result is a gleg comedy wi a classic European farce plot at hert, but ane that’s aa dolled-up in the duds o a gallus Scots tale.
The company pittin it oan are Leitheatre, an amateur body noo intae their 34th year at the Fringe. They hae a happy history o fower-star reviews fae the auld farrant paper-press, as weel’s performin ambitious pieces, sae Carlin’s wark seems tae be in safe hauns. This shaw wid mak a fine innin tae aabody new tae Scots, as ye can aye follay the story gin ye tyne twa three bitties o the dialogue alang the wey. Tak a pal, tak the bidie-in, tak thon gowk fae the office wha says Scots isnae a leid; ye should aa be in fir a rare treat.
Inverleith St Serf’s Church Centre (venue 83), 7.30pm 6th-19th August (no Sundays)
Singing Scots is an hour lang performance pit thegither bi the Motely Sangsters o the Scots Music Group (SMG). The SMG are Embra’s maist important conduit o traditional music fae ae generation tae the neist. They run classes in aahin fae Borders Pipes tae fiddle an sang, wi weel-kent faces fae the Scots music scene at the helm. Singing Scots gies the Motley Sangsters a stage fir tae shaw the fruits o their labours. Sic nichts as this aye gie ye a chance tae hear auld favourites, an aiblins ane or twa sangs yi’ll neer o heard afore. The SMG dae houaniver warn that the shaw will gar ye greet ae wey or anithir (lettin ye ken aforehaun that the quality o sang may no be as consistent as ye’d expect fae a mair professional event). The reason wir sae blessit wi Scots sang the dey is that amateurs o aa abilities hae kept gien it voice fae epoch tae epoch. Ye can lippen oan the SMG tae keep these sangs gaein. Gin sang is yir love, or Scots is yir leid, get alang an support the neist generation o a very livin tradition o scottish cultur.
Acoustic Music Centre @ St Bride’s (venue 123), 7pm Aug 26th
Tickets for ilka shaw abuin can be fund at edfringe.com
Alistair Heather is a student o History, French an Gaelic atween Geneva an Aiberdeen universities. Ye can get him oan Twitter @Historic_Ally