Alan Cumming says new Robert Burns dance show has left him feeling exhausted but looking decades younger

It is a new dance show that will see one of Scotland’s most successful stage and screen stars take on the challenge of portraying the nation’s most celebrated poet.

Monday, 25th July 2022, 4:55 am

But Hollywood and Broadway favourite Alan Cumming has admitted that he has been left exhausted and struggling to remember his moves preparing for a new Robert Burns-inspired “dance-theatre” he will be starring in.

Ahead of its Edinburgh International Festival run, he has also recalled his terror when launching a previous show at the event, starring in The Bacchae in 2017.

However Cumming believes he looks decades younger thanks to a new hairstyle he has adopted for the show “Burn,” even though it has drawn comparisons to broadcaster Neil Oliver, Harry Potter character Snape and children’s TV favourite Dora the Explorer.

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    Cumming, who has extensively researched the life of Burns for the new National Theatre of Scotland production has described the poet as "a hot mess," who was "emotionally volatile and fragile."

    Cumming, who has pledged to challenge the “Hollywoodised” and “biscuit tin” image of Burns, believes the 18th century poet has been misunderstood and sidelined because he wrote in Scots.

    Asked about his preparations for Burn during an appearance on Radio Scotland’s Off the Ball show, Cumming said: “It’s going pretty well, but it’s exhausting.

    “It’s difficult for me to remember steps. I’m not a dancer and I’m 57. None of it makes sense and I shouldn’t be doing it, but I’ve just got into this thing.

    “I went to a physio a couple of weeks ago, Craig from Kilmarnock, who was 25 and 6.6 ft. He was working away with me and at the end of it I asked him how I was doing. He said to me: ‘You’re holding up well, Alan.’ I felt like an old shed.”

    However Cumming admitted he was fond of the hairstyle created for the production, which will be previewed in Greenock this weekend.

    He added: “It’s my own hair with someone else’s attached. I’ve got extensions.

    “I see pictures of myself from two weeks ago and I’m like a middle-aged man with grey hair. Now I’m this plump-faced, raven-haired, long-haired youth.”

    Alan Cumming will be portraying Robert Burns in the new National Theatre of Scotland production Burn. Picture: ommy Ga-Ken Wan

    Cumming admitted he often got angry with himself that he suffered from opening night nerves when he was launching a new show.

    He added: “In a funny way, I think nerves are good because it means that you still care.

    “It’s probably more to do with who the audience are. I hadn’t done anything in Scotland for 16 years when I played Dionysus in The Bacchae at the King’s in Edinburgh. I hadn’t been around for so long and here I was back doing this big thing. That was really terrifying, probably because there was such a lot at stake.”

    Asked if there were previous roles that now made him “cringe,” Cumming said: “There is a film that I did that I just think is awful. I was sort of tricked into doing it and emotionally blackmailed. It turned out to be rubbish.

    Alan Cumming will be portraying Robert Burns in the new National Theatre of Scotland production Burn. Picture: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

    “Mostly it’s just looks. There’s a few wigs I have worn. You go on a red carpet, someone sends you clothes to wear, then you see it in a magazine and think ‘what the hell was I thinking.’ They're my biggest regrets.”

    Alan Cumming will be portraying Robert Burns in the new National Theatre of Scotland production Burn. Picture: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
    Alan Cumming will be portraying Robert Burns in the new National Theatre of Scotland production Burn. Picture: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
    Alan Cumming will be portraying Robert Burns in the new National Theatre of Scotland production Burn. Picture: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan