Underbelly, Cowgate, Edinburgh
The joy of the Edinburgh Festival has always been the discovery of exciting theatre. We tried Scaramouche Jones simply because we liked the title, but it was far better than our expectations. This is an exercise in consummate storytelling that transcends the unprepossessing nature of the humble room in which it’s staged.
On his 100th birthday, the titular hero shares, for the first time ever, his life story with an audience. In what is essentially an extended monologue, Thom Tuck excels, delivering Justin Butcher’s extraordinarily evocative script to great effect, as he guides us expertly through the seven stages of Jones’s life from his lowly beginnings as the unwanted son of a prostitute in Port of Spain, Trinidad to his final days, treading the boards as a world-weary clown in the city of London.
As Tuck describes the long journey that brought him to the start of a new millennium, exotic locations are effortlessly evoked through Butcher’s florid descriptions – a journey by camel is conjured merely by the rocking motion Tuck maintains as he sits in his chair – while his descriptions of working as a grave digger in a Nazi concentration camp are quite shattering in their intensity. He gives us a range of characters with a wide variety of accents, taking it all in his stride.
I sat there mesmerised from start to finish. A little longer than the usual festival one hour slot, this is really worth seeking out. Rich, eventful and absorbing, I can’t imagine a more satisfying experience for lovers of great storytelling.