Theatre review: Thunderstruck, Assembly Checkpoint, Edinburgh

There is a line in David Colvin’s solo monologue (with band) about bagpiping which makes a joking aside towards “bad buskers”; which draws a line in the earth between the kind of tourist attractors who congregate on Edinburgh’s streets and the playing of the pipes as a true art, a musical skill and vocation whose texture and possibility might be explored like any other instrument.

Thunderstruck, Assembly Checkpoint (Venue 322)

Thunderstruck, Assembly Checkpoint, Edinburgh * * * *

During the Edinburgh Festival month of August, such a reappraisal of the sound of the pipes must surely be welcome to anyone who wishes to dig beneath the tartan-clad image of Scotland.

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As both a champion bagpiper in his teenage years and an adult actor who was in the cast of the National Theatre of Scotland’s Black Watch as it transferred to Broadway, Colvin is well-placed to tell this story.

In fact, it’s a tale which is only partly his, and partly, viewed from afar, an appreciation of Pitlochry piper Gordon Duncan, who revolutionised the form to some derision from within the piping community, yet lived in obscurity as a bin collector and died tragically young of alcoholism.

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Although the full band arrangement seems somewhat superfluous, Colvin’s piping take on AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, after Duncan, is a bravura flourish; one which is almost as memorable as his amusing elaboration on the unlikely interchangeability of the words “c***” and “person” in Fife Scots.

Until 26 August