At the beginning of August, we were walking down Chambers Street when I heard bellowing coming from South Bridge. Across the street, there was a kilted man shouting “there will be no blue painted faces, there will be no fantasy french princesses ” and something about a 5 star reviewed show… I was intrigued.
We were on our way somewhere so we couldn’t watch it but we walked over and said hello to him and took a flyer. Fast forward to last Saturday and I had a hankering for hearing a tale from the tomes of Scottish history. It was just as well because that was exactly what was on offer with this show by Alex McSherry. The show was part of the PBH Free Fringe lineup and, like everything I’ve seen from the PBH programme over the years, it didn’t disappoint. The show starts with a bang on the door and in pours McSherry, this time completely immersed in character. It is at this point that we are introduced to Alec, a Tanner recently bereaved of his wife and son. After going over the basics of soaking animal skins, he begins to recount the time he spent making leather items for William Wallace. Next comes a no holds barred retelling of the Battle of Stirling Bridge with all the blood, guts, death and heroism intact. It was a very dynamic performance which sees McSherry utilise his booming voice to great effect, as well as some quieter and sombre moments.
Indeed, his stage presence was very commanding and the drama was riveting enough that a small interruption by a couple of latecomers wasn’t enough to take me out of the action, so to speak. A true masterclass in performing arts and storytelling.
While there are plenty of laughs in this show, it is by no means a comedy. When McSherry warns people against coming if they are easily offended, he isn’t kidding. The Tanners Tale is a no-compromising, graphic retelling of a period in Scottish history too often stripped of its accuracy in the pursuit of accessibility and romanticism.
Although this was the final showing of The Tanners Tale for this Fringe season, Alex mentioned that the show will be returning to Edinburgh at some point so keep an eye out for it! You can find Alex McSherry on Twitter.