Mike Maran in a consummate storyteller; in this show he’s accompanied by the wonderful Rona Wilkie or Morag Brown on Scottish fiddle. The music, as ever, weaves seamlessly and beautifully through Maran’s performance, a mountain stream to his rolling hills, with the occasional rapids thrown in. Maran is a genius at marrying music and spoken word and he only works with the best. He’s also a prodigious researcher. His shows are renowned for their insight into the lives of the greats. This one covers many.
Maran has the most wonderful performance style.
Therein lies the only flaw in this production. We meet Adam Smith, James Watt, Robert Adam and James Boswell. Robbie Burns inevitably appears, Deacon Brodie too; we are told a little of their history.
At the centre of this piece is story of Indian Peter, born in 1730 in Aberdeenshire. Maran discovered him in a late eighteenth-century poem by Robert Fergusson, ‘Edinburgh’s tragic young poet Laureate,’ we read in the extraordinarily lengthy and informative program. This is a ‘rip-roaring, swashbuckling tale of kidnap, shipwreck, slavery, murder, mayhem and skulduggery,’ told as only Mike Maran can.
The show intimate, funny and informative, terrific as an antidote to the madness of the Mile. We learn much about the modernisation of Edinburgh, always with Maran’s dry Scottish wit. It’s clear why he’s loved up here and far, far more widely. Is there, though, just a little too much in this tale? I began to feel I’d be tested at the end of it.
Having said that, Maran has the most wonderful performance style. He has developed something that is uniquely Mike Maran Productions. And as director, Patrick Sandford has pretty much maintained perfect pace throughout. The sweet little soundproof venue is to die for, the set a delight.
To criticise this gem of a piece feels almost disrespectful. But if it was just a little shorter, those few audience members who drifted would have stayed tightly moored to Maran’s ship, without doubt.