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 The Theatreguide.London Review

The Flouers O'Edinburgh
Finborough Theatre  Autumn 2014

In this month that may see the dissolution of the United Kingdom the Finborough has unearthed a delightful comedy exploring some of the sillier by-products of Union three centuries ago. 

Robert McLellan's 1948 play, here getting its English premiere, is set in eighteenth-century Edinburgh, where what a later wag called the Edinbourgeoisie, largely landed gentry living in town, go happily about their slightly rough-edged but good-hearted lives – that is to say, they're a little informal with servants – and speak their native Scots dialect.

(The bulk of the play is in Scots, which is at least 80% intelligible to modern English ears – you can guess at the rest or let it pass – and has a nice earthy sound that is a big part of the play's charm.) 

But some of the Edinburghers have decided that in order to get on in this new world they have to learn how to speak 'proper' English and act and dress like Londoners, and most of the play's comedy is based on the complete fools they make of themselves in their attempts. 

There is plenty of plot to hang this on, little of it of any real interest to either playwright or audience. A romantic triangle involving a Scots lass, an English officer and the most foolish of the trying-to-be English local lads works itself out. 

Rivals for a parliament seat both think they've bribed enough of the right people to guarantee victory. An English-based scheme to steal and exploit some Scottish land is foiled. And the much-anticipated return of a long-away relative brings some surprises.

But frankly the play doesn't care much about any of these story lines except perhaps for the triangle. They're just things to pass the time between scenes of the Englishified looking foolish and those happy to retain their Scottishness looking sensible and attractive. And that is enough to hang an enjoyable evening on. 

Director Jennifer Bakst might have chosen to punch up the comic moments more emphatically, but she gets the play's love of its Scots-speaking characters and charity toward its fools just right. 

A large cast is led by Jenny Lee as the warm-hearted hostess whose home serves as social centre, Finlay Bain as the silliest of the wannabes and Lewis Rae as an overworked servant.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  The Flouers O'Edinburgh - Finborough Theatre 2014

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