Alan Cumming will play Robert Burns in a one-man dance theater show | Theater

Alan Cumming will star as Scottish National Bard Robert Burns this summer in a one-man show that will delve beyond the great poet’s “traditional cookie jar image”.

Burn, a dance theater production, was announced on Tuesday amid preparations for the traditional Burns evening suppers celebrating the poet’s birthday. It will be staged as part of the 75th Edinburgh International Festival (FEI) in August.

Burns, an 18th century sharecropper turned excise collector, wrote passionately about his country in gripping poems and songs, including Tam o’ Shanter, Auld Lang Syne and Address to a Haggis, which is recited at memorial suppers of Burns. Her work “tells us the absolute truth about who we are as Scots”, Cumming said. “But the more I researched him, the more I realized I didn’t know the absolute truth about him.”

With Burn, Cumming aims to tell the poet’s story “using my whole body” and he said: “If I have one regret in my artistic life, it would be that I didn’t become a dancer.” The actor will collaborate on the show with choreographer Steven Hoggett whose productions include Black Watch and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Burn is co-produced by the National Theater of Scotland, New York’s Joyce Theater and EIF, who said the show explores his personal struggles and dramatic successes.

Cumming is no stranger to Edinburgh’s annual arts jamboree. He was a roof-raising Dionysus in the National Theater of Scotland’s production of The Bacchae at the 2007 festival and had a cabaret residency, Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs!, in 2016. Towards the end of last year’s festival – which was significantly reduced due to Covid – he presented a show called Alan Cumming Is Not Acting His Age.

Burn was announced alongside a revival of Liz Lochhead’s contemporary Scottish-language adaptation of Euripides’ Medea, which will be directed at FEI by Michael Boyd and will feature actor and playwright Adura Onashile whose play Expensive Shit won was staged on the outskirts of Edinburgh in 2016. Lochhead’s Medea was first staged in Glasgow in 2000 by Theater Babel. Boyd’s revival with Onashile was planned at FEI in 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic. Additional programming for this year’s FEI, which will run from August 5-29, will be announced in the spring.