A BURNS Night in one of the Capital’s plushest hotels is to cast new light on the legendary philandering excesses of the Scots Bard.
Organisers said the Burns-themed instalment of Mercat Tours’ Sin in the City series would uncover the poet’s “loves, lusts and passions” as a counterweight to his role as national icon.
And managers at Edinburgh’s Bonham Hotel, which has agreed to host Sin in the City, said their traditional townhouse property would be an ideal setting for the show’s more risqué elements.
A frank discussion of Burns’ edgier poems about passion and illicit affairs, the show will be narrated by an English alewife, newly arrived in Scotland, who reveals elements of the poet’s past that often fail to make it into official collections of his work.
Professional storyteller Nicola Wright, 42, who will play the part of the alewife, said: “Let’s just say there’ll be lots of houghmagandie – or sex for those who don’t know old Scots!”
Ms Wright, herself a Sassenach who came to the Capital over two decades ago from Gloucestershire, said she empathised with the plight of her character as an outsider making her way in a new and sometimes hostile land.
But she said the erotic life of the Scots Bard was more than enough to draw her to a dramatisation of his wild ways.
“He wrote some absolutely filthy erotic poems that were never in any of the official books, which I’ll be talking about – although perhaps not reciting them!” she said.
“They are very explicit, still shocking to this day, and they express the fact that he was really quite a lad.
“In a way, it wasn’t such a surprise Burns behaved the way that he did.
“He was a gorgeous-looking guy so you can see why the ladies fell for him.”
Ms Wright also said she hoped to spark new public interest in a side of Burns’ character that is often overshadowed.
“I think the erotic poems and the parts of him which they look at just aren’t well known enough,” she said.
“Burns night tends to be a celebration of traditional poetry but he was also just a great character – a flawed human being and lover of the ladies, certainly, but also someone who lived his life to the full.
“He was someone who came from a background of poverty and to achieve what he did in society and literature is an indication of how great a man he was.”
Managers at the Bonham said the combination of their hotel’s traditional Georgian elegance and up-to-date interiors would provide the perfect backdrop for a show about the murkier, more risqué episodes in the life of Scotland’s national poet.
Fiona Strauss, Bonham sales and marketing director, said: “We wanted to do something a bit different.
“I think we felt that sometimes there’s not a huge list of options for Burns – it’s so traditional and here at the Bonham we’ve always been about combining the traditional with the contemporary and quirky.
“The hotel is in a traditional town house building but everything inside is contemporary. In that sense, we felt it provided an ideal backdrop for Sin and the City’s take on Burns.”
Ode to Edinburgh
PENNED in November 1786, Address to Edinburgh is Burns’ most famous work about the Capital.
It was published in 1787 and is valued as a celebration of Edinburgh’s flourishing cultural and social life in the late 18th and 19th centuries.
The line about “Fair Burnet” is an allusion to Eliza Burnett (1766-1790), youngest daughter of Scottish philosopher Lord Monboddo and one of the most popular women in Edinburgh at the time of the poem’s composition.
Critics have also pointed to a conscious effort by Burns to cast himself as the Scots Bard, celebrating the nation’s history and culture through poetry. Here are the opening verses:
Edina! Scotia’s darling seat!
All hail thy palaces and tow’rs,
Where once beneath a Monarch’s feet,
Sat Legislation’s sov’reign pow’rs!
From marking wildly-scatt’red flow’rs,
As on the banks of Ayr I stray’d,
And singing, lone, the ling’ring hours,
I shelter in thy honour’d shade.
Here Wealth still swells the golden tide,
As busy Trade his labours plies;
There Architecture’s noble pride
Bids elegance and splendour rise:
Here Justice, from her native skies,
High wields her balance and her rod;
There Learning, with his eagle eyes,
Seeks Science in her coy abode.