Local literary giant Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street crosses over to the stage for the first time. I’ve never read them, but apparently this adaptation, by Lydia Bruce and Sandy Burns, is incredibly faithful to the books, initially serialised in the Scotsman and often compared with Armistead Maupin’s San Francisco-set Tales from the City.
Edinburgh’s New Town comes alive in Warren Hooper’s wrap-around production, in which the audience, sat on stools arranged in the centre, pivot to watch neighbourhood scenes play out on designer Belinda Ackermann’s numerous set components surrounding us.
Though the creaky floorboards of C soco can make for noisy to-ings and fro-ings, this is an effective way of involving us in the minutiae of the lives of – to readers – familiar characters, including art gallery owner Matthew, aimless twentysomething Pat, narcissistic Bruce, dog-loving painter Angus and, of course, precocious five-year-old Bertie of the title, who’s under the thumb of his domineering mum.
I would have been happier had Bruce and Burns not felt the need to be quite so faithful to the scope of the novel. The young protagonist, played winningly by Clark Devlin, is by far the most interesting and insightful character. I would have welcomed more of the world according to Bertie.