Burnistoun: Live At The Fringe

Following a sold out transition to the stage at the Glasgow Comedy Festival, sketch show Burnistoun makes it way to the Edinburgh Fringe. Burnistoun is best described as ‘Scotland through the looking glass,’ and some of the surreal absurdity is inevitably lost without the production value and editing tricks of television. Burnistoun is at its best when the weird and eldritch meet the iconic dourness of Scotland, but despite this notable absence, the rest is no less funny on the stage.

Joining main cast Robert Florence and Iain Connell are Burnistoun mainstays Louise Stewart and Gerry McLaughlin, and they all do a great job. Particular highlights are Connell and Stewart, with the former channelling a manic, giddy energy, – not to mention an easy, companionable way with the audience –  and with Stewart anchoring much of the show in her magnetic presence. Her and McLaughlin are stronger actors than Florence and Connell both, and it’s not wasted. Florence and Connell may be the faces of Burnistoun, but it feels like you could pair any two members up and they’d make it work.

Sketches are fluid and fast, there was rarely a moment where all of the cast left the stage during a transition. The sense of momentum is the defining feature of Burnistoun Live.

There’s a stout mix of old characters and new, and while it does feel a little too ‘nudge nudge, remember this’ at times, there’s very few reused jokes. When they crop up they’re to wonderful effect for fans of the show, and I confess to some bias in that certain under-appreciated characters from the original series make appearances that felt laser-targeted to appeal to me.

There’s some well-aimed jabs at Edinburgh, and the Fringe in particular, that would have worked well on their own, without being as smartly integrated as they are. Even when things go wrong it’s funny, with Connell in particular displaying a keen knack for running with the mistakes.

Burnistoun’s Fringe debut is only held back by a slightly alienating reliance on familiarity with the characters – obviously not a problem for fans – and a slight dulling of the surrealist edges that made the TV show so special. Highly recommended.

★★★★ (and a half)

Keiran Burnett