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The Ghosting of Rabbie Burns

at Òran Mór

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A charming if slightly insipid love letter to Rabbie Burns.

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When she retreats to the former home of Robert Burns to spend Burns Night alone, writer Ariel (Morna Young) is surprised to find the ghost of the man himself (James MacKenzie) making an appearance. As they start to discuss the nature of love and relationships, both parties realise that some things never really change.

If you imagine Richard Curtis deciding to do his own ‘Scottish play’, the result would be remarkably similar to this charming little tale from Gillian Duffy. Fair and square in rom-com territory (complete with Burns’ songs), The Ghosting of Rabbie Burns is a brisk little piece of theatre. At an hour long it never outstays its welcome or bores – no mean feat for something that is a two-hander. The staging at the Òran Mór is simple and unfussy (a table and two chairs, a photograph of the croft acting as background and some props), allowing both performers to come to the fore.

As Ariel, Young has the less enviable part. More restrained and feeling recently jilted by an ex, she proves herself quietly capable, sparring with her ghostly partner and giving as good as she gets in the verbal stakes. Ariel’s modern sensibilities are used to put Rabbie in his place and point out that some of his behaviour would construe sexual harassment in 2019. MacKenzie is having a ball as the showy, lusty and vain Burns. From thigh-slapping to audience interaction, he veers on just the right side of entertaining as opposed to irritating. Sometimes the ribald jokes are overdone and less would be more, but it’s a minor point. There are flashes of sadness under the veneers of both characters, however they are only fleeting.

The script does have a few strange anomalies (quite how a 200+ year old ghost has heard of Wikipedia but fails to recognise a pen is a bit of a headscrather) and some downright clunky ‘modern’ references to things like having “access to the Cloud” would probably be best removed. It feels very ‘right on’ when the inevitable discussion about ghosting in the 21st century dating scene occurs. The dialogue at times borders on trite (“can’t let the ghost of Charlie haunt you forever”, for example) as things become a bit too hammered home. Then again, this is unashamedly a light rom-com; expecting utter depth and sophistication would be as silly as the idea of a ghost who gets a “pass once a year for good behaviour”. As it goes, The Ghosting of Rabbie Burns is an inoffensive way to spend an hour.