Resurrecting Bobby Awl, Summerhall, Edinburgh * *
The show is inspired by the fact that somewhere in the bowels of Surgeon’s Hall, Edinburgh retains a plaster cast of the skull of Bobby Awl, a famous street character of the city in the early 19th century; and it features both a plaster skull, and a version of the large boot in which the severely deformed Bobby was kept as a baby, after his mother abandoned him.
It is hard, however, to imagine how his story could be worse told than in Josh Roche’s production for Avalon and BBC Arts, in which three female performers only one of whom can manage a Scottish accent deliver a garbled semi-verse account of Awl’s life told without empathy, resonance, or any sense of context. There’s a strange and intriguing theme, here, about the brutal bullying of disabled people that characterised our culture until very recently, and about the strategies Awl used to survive; but the combined effect of Catling’s script and this production is of a theatre event that can barely feign any interest in its own subject, far less in the complex post-Enlightenment Edinburgh from which Awl’s story emerged.
Until 25 August