Edinburgh City of Literature’s annual celebration of Robert Louis Stevenson has now expanded across an entire week, with 47 events honouring the writer taking place across the capital from Mon 9 – Sun 15 Nov. The Scottish Storytelling Centre will play host to four #RLSDay productions, celebrating his life, works and legacy through storytelling and theatre.
We first take a journey from the streets of Edinburgh, through France and America to the islands of the Polynesia in Robert Louis Stevenson: Laird of Samoa. Written by John Cargill Thomas and with John Shedden starring as the writer himself, this warm, funny and fast-paced play has been performed around the world since premiering at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 21 years ago.
Director Mark Taylor describes Shedden’s performance as ‘Stevenson to the living flesh’, saying: “When it comes to Stevenson, John has covered everything from Kidnapped to Travels with a Donkey. He’s portrayed the writer across the world, from the Cevennes to San Francisco, Saranac to Samoa, and we’re delighted to complete the journey at the Scottish Storytelling Centre.”
Suitable for ages 12 and up, The Laird of Samoa will take place at the Centre on Thu 12 Nov with a school’s performance at 2.30pm followed by a show for the general public at 7.30pm. (Please call the Box Office for details of school discounts.)
Also on Thu 12 Nov, storytellers Claire McNicol and Fergus McNicol will pay homage to Stevenson’s extraordinary body of work at a special edition of our monthly event, Café Voices with an open floor section for storytellers to get up and share their own Stevenson Stories with the audience. Fergus says: “We’ll be telling stories from Stevenson’s collection of fables, such as ‘The Yellow Paint’, as well as some of his poetry and the stories that inspired these.
“Punctuating the evening there will be a Stevenson ‘tall tales test’ of short stories and anecdotes, which the audience will decide are either true or false – such as the fact that although he lived for 44 years he was only 41 when he died, or his invention of the ‘gardy loo’ myth of old Edinburgh as an April Fool for his American friends and family. You’ll need to come along to find out which of these are true!”
RLSDay itself takes place on Fri 13 Nov, the writer’s birthday, with From an Original Idea by RLS…, a day-long event looking at Stevenson’s relationship with the silver screen. Members and friends of The RLS Club will give readings from some of his works before showing how they were transformed for Hollywood, comparing his original words with their countless adaptations. Drop in between 11am and 6pm to catch a scene or two, or stay all day to immerse yourself in the depth and range of Stevenson’s stories.
Finally, the celebrations end on Sat 14 Nov with a look at Stevenson’s most famed story, Kidnapped. Adapted for the stage by TRACS’ Donald Smith, this gusty, exhilarating production follows Davie Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart on an adventure that has delighted readers around the globe for over 100 years. As Donald says:
“The verve and pace, the sheer poetry of Kidnapped switches people on immediately, even if they’ve never engaged with RL Stevenson, and it’s presented in a humorous way to make it accessible to older children and young people.”
Actors Billy Mack and John Winchester switch between characters, while Gavin Paul – who acted in a previous production of the play – takes the reigns as director. He says: “It’s a fantastic story that appeals to young and old alike, with Donald Smith’s action packed script plus two great storytelling performances in Billy and John. Hopefully everybody can enjoy it as much as I have.”
For more information on how to get involved in #RLSDay, visit cityofliterature.com.