Spotlites (Venue 278), Edinburgh – 14-28 August 2016
Reviewer: Hugh Simpson
Cheery and cheeky, Ideoms’ Soddin’ Flodden at Spotlites presents a fun and accessible take on Scottish history.
As the title suggests, it deals with the much-lamented death of James IV, King of Scots in 1513, at the hands of the English in Northumberland. Not only did it cut a swathe through the army and nobility, the battle has coloured Scotland’s self-image ever since. In fact, Flodden is only a small part of this story. Instead, it details James’s whole life, starting at a similar point to where Rona Munro’s James III leaves off.
Storyteller John Nichol has an easygoing style, interacting skilfully with the audience in a decidedly humorous take on events. He plays a large number of parts, symbolised by different hats, supported by musicians Hilary Bell and Jenni Borthwick, and by anonymous helpers only represented by off-stage voices and the occasional protruding hand.
The humour is definitely on the broad side, approaching a pantomime at times in its saucy gags and rewritten pop songs, but is none the worse for that. The history behind it, meanwhile, is fairly reliable, even if it is of a distinctly old-fashioned ‘what one king said to another’ school.
A wider context is lacking. What is odd is that, the production having started by Nichol saying how much the defeat at Flodden has impacted on the Scottish national psyche, this is never even mentioned subsequently. Having spent most of the show building up to the conflict, its aftermath is ignored. Instead, there is a sudden lurch from comedy into a much more sombre mood that is only partly successful.
Why Scots put so much store on national disasters like Flodden or Darien is an interesting question that is not addressed, when the title of this show implies that this might happen. Instead, this is a breezy romp through the life of James IV that would appeal to anyone who likes Horrible Histories, silly song parodies or free cake.
Running time: 1 hour
Spotlites (Venue 278), 22-26 George Street, EH2 2PQ
Sunday 14 – Sunday 28 August 2016
Daily at 7.30 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/soddin-flodden
Company website: http://ideomstheatre.co.uk