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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!




The Finborough Theatre presents

The Flouers O’Edinburgh


Finlay Bain as Charles Gilchrist and Kevin McMonagle as Sir Charles Gilchrist in The Flouers O’Edinburgh at Finborough Theatre


by Robert McLellan

Designed by Philip Lindley

Lighting design by Ciaran Cunningham

Costume design by Rose Adolph

Sound Designer and Composition by Simon Slater

Casting by Benjamin Newsome

Directed by Jennifer Jennifer Bakst


Finborough Theatre


2-27 September 2014


The Finborough Theatre is already notable for giving Scottish playwrights a voice and fittingly, their current season includes three classic Scottish plays and a new one, to coincide with the Scottish Independence Referendum. The Flouers O’Edinburgh falls into the first category, written in 1948, it is an uproarious exploration of the sociolinguistic tension between Scots and English in Scotland following the Union of the Crowns. In the hands and mouths of a cast devoid of a weak link this timely revival sparkles with wit, passion and playfulness.

The cast is made up of Scots spanning generations, with conflicting attitudes about what constitutes progress and improvement. Sir Charles Gilchrist (Kevin McMonagle), full of sardonic witticisms and cutting observations, is dismayed by artifice and perplexed by any desire to appear English. The terse relationship between him and his semi-estranged son Charles (Finlay Bain) drives much of the tension in the play. A bastion of traditional, pre-union Scotland, Sir Charles is aghast to find his son returned from London attempting to talk and dress as an Englishman. His son is quick to refute this accusation, in an aggravating way which is uniquely his own, reminding him that the terms Scottish and English became obsolete with the Union, an assertion which is explored in depth by the play itself.  

Matter-of-fact Girzie (Jenny Lee) is another who sees unparalleled beauty and value in her native tongue. She presides over a cordial tenement household having had her country estate confiscated because of the support of her family for Bonnie Prince Charlie. Her cosy residence sees gentlemen from all walks of life pass through, primarily to socialise and secondarily in the hope of winning the affection of her or her very beautiful niece Miss Kate Mair of Drummore (Leigh Lothian). The various affections batted around provide a comic subplot which runs adjacent to the political satire at the fore.

The unbearably nervous Reverend Daniel of Dowie (Richard Sterling), author of lyric poem The Tomb, enjoys minor celebrity status in Edinburgh but his bubble is burst by young Charlie Gilchrist who is only too pleased to report that it is not so acclaimed in London and that his rhyme is considered ‘all wrong’. The insufferable young prig concludes that English as a spoken word is foreign to Dowie and that he is far from a master of it in the way he supposed. The lyricism and beauty of the Scottish language is much debated through the piece and while Charlie Gilchrist on the one hand denounces it, the postcard Englishman Captain Simkin (Tom Durant-Pritchard) is extremely keen to extol its value to anyone who’ll listen to his pleasantries.

David Gooderson plays the General, Girzie’s long lost brother who returns stern and hardened and downright dreadful after 15 years fighting various wars. Having set him up as everything she’s been waiting for, his arrival is a crushing disappointment and she finds him too much altered to be the lifeline she has hoped for. Meanwhile, she has found a better brother-figure in her charmingly cheeky housekeeper Jock (Lewis Rae).

The lighting and set design are strikingly beautiful, candles of various heights fill a fireplace and adorn the ceiling and walls producing a warm, atmospheric glow. Props and costumes have been scrupulously chosen and everything from Miss Kate’s exquisite corset and undergarments to the tea-set used by Girzie when entertaining is delightfully mid-18th century. The music which punctuates scene changes is distinctively Scottish and contributes, like everything else, to the immersive mood in this wonderfully absorbing space.

While rambunctious Miss Kate and hapless Young Charlie contemplate a union of their own and Girzie and Sir Charles fend off developers from London, the key messages in McLellan’s lyrical script drop slowly. Meanwhile, the superb comedy at the heart of this this tightly directed production is instantaneously effective (I witnessed knee-slapping). In conclusion, The Finborough can, as usual, be relied upon for not just superbly chosen and presented but provocative and captivating theatre.


Finlay Bain as Charles Gilchrist and Leigh Lothian as Miss Kate Mair of Drummore in The Flouers O’Edinburgh at Finborough Theatre
Finborough Theatre
 118 Finborough Road
 London, SW10 9ED
24 Hour Box Office: 0844 847 1652
Tickets: £16, £14 concessions

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