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An Oberammergau for Dumfries: pageant brings Burns into the sun

Robert Burns, poet, songwriter and Scottish icon, spent his last seven years in Dumfries in Scotland’s south west. It was his retreat from the Edinburgh literary world that had brought him, only a year before, contemporary fame. It was in Dumfries he wrote his great songs, Auld Lang Syne, My Love is like a Red Red Rose  and John Anderson My Jo. It was here he had his children and died too soon at 37.  A new pageant, Life, Love and Liberty, is set to showcase these last Burns years as well as Dumfries itself.

The pageant takes the form of a dramatised open air performance around the places known by Burns. The audience will follow the seven stages of the play on foot from the riverside opening scene to Burns’ first house in the Wee Vennel to his last on Mill Brae, via the Midsteeple, The Globe Tavern and the Theatre Royal treading the very cobblestones Burns trod.

The event, which takes place on 21 and 22 July, will be the first of its kind in Scotland but the tradition of the community-performed, town-set drama is centuries old. The Oberammergau Passion Play dates back to 1664. The five-hour outdoor dramatatisation of the death of Christ is the result of a vow taken by the inhabitants of Oberammergau in Germany, who, besieged by war and plague, swore that if God spared them they would stage a Passion Play every ten years. They have kept that vow in a unbroken series of performances  which these days draw tens of thousands spectators from around the world.

In April of  this year actor Michael Sheen returned to Wales to stage a 72 hour outdoor Easter Passion Play in the streets and on the beach of his hometown of Port Talbot. Over 1000 members of the community took part and many thousands more turned out to view the spectacle.

The Burns Pageant is the brainchild of Burns actor and afficionado John Cairney who will also direct. He says, ‘The pageant is unique and will bring Burns out of his Burns Supper winter world and into the summer sun which, for the deep humanity of his work, he more than deserves.’

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