VENUE: Red Bridge Arts, Scottish Storytelling Centre – August 11-20 (not 17)
BY JEAN WEST
Andy Cannon is a canny Scotsman when it comes to devising winning formulae. In his 30 plus years in Scottish theatre he has stuck closer to his guns than a lone cowboy in a wild-west shoot out.
And unlike the anti-hero in his latest Fringe offering, Is This A Dagger? The Story of Macbeth, his refusal to compromise with dark commercial forces, has fashioned him into an assured self-made man, where artistic craftsmanship is concerned.
Talking of cowboys, John Wayne, who has absolutely nothing to do with the Fringe or the performer, once said: “When you come slam bang against trouble, it never looks half as bad if you face up to it.”
That is Cannon’s creed when up against the wordy, often inaccessible literary texts of yore. Those Arthurian legends, Biblical yarns and Shakespearean dramas, he deftly unravels with just the right balance of wit, comedy and gravitas, for the fast-food theatre hungry crowds. But his servings are never without substance.
The actor/director, formerly of Wee Stories, is brave. He takes an idea already honed perfect in classical form and renders it, in his own time; wrestling and teasing the subject matter, to return it to simplicity. Every bit a soap as Coronation Street but with far more style.
You can see that the process is as much to help him get to grips with the material as his audience. But in the spirit of play he is eager to share his story with the wider world, to kind of gossip it forth like a washerwoman in the street.
And so we have Shakespeare’s Scottish Story translated with the simplest of props. A kitchen bucket, duster, pair of rubber gloves and a torch, all neat weapons of mass deconstruction, rendering complex narrative, pathologies and anthropology into relevant, timeless yarns.
Cannon’s humour, just Monty Python and measured enough, is a lodestar that guides us through the darkness of bloody, murderous battlefields and the ghoulish heath to the grisly finale.
When Macbeth returns from the carnage of those battlefields to his Lady, at home scrubbing the floors, she looks up from her bucket, wryly with a terse, ‘shoes please,’ before he can enter.
Surreally, she goes on to encourage guests at a banquet post-murder of the king to enjoy themselves and help themselves to dips. These touches are signature Cannon and why his shows are usually packed to the gills.
The children over-eight directive is instructive. Cannon may be master of the one-liner but this is also a scary performance.
His voice is booming at times and some of the ghostly effects might have younger children crying for their parents in the night.
I wish Mr Cannon had been in the wings when I was doing my A levels. I might have notched up a couple of higher grades.
A master at his craft, a wit and wizard, who swishes his kilt at the world’s best storytellers and beckons audiences hither.