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Saturday, January 26, 2019


(Frank Graham & Miriam Erasmus)

Lovers of timeless Scottish tunes and great storytelling should not miss this endearing show. (Review by Mike Raftery)

Anyone of Scottish descent will know that poet Robert Burns is to Scotland what Shakespeare is to English literature, and that Burns Night is a celebration of his life and works, traditionally held on his birthday, January 25.

This is the second year that the Rhumbelow have offered a “Burns Night” show, presented by two icons of the Durban arts world – legendary stage and radio actor Frank Graham and the doyenne of Durban folk music, Miriam (Mim) Erasmus. The show is taking place at Tina’s Hotel in Kloof.

I remember as a child sitting in the studios of the SABC in (then) Old Fort Road watching the likes of Tom Meehan, John Simpson, Roger Service and a somewhat younger Frank Graham create the comedic characters that entertained us on Springbok radio shows such as The Men From The Ministry and The Navy Lark. Frank's command of a myriad of voices was impressive then and his mastery of the spoken word has not diminished.

I met Miriam when we were both involved in the Durban Folk music scene in the early 90s and was immediately struck by the incredible crystalline clarity of her voice, in a league of her own when delivering traditional ballads from across the British Isles. I fell in love with her rendition of Lord Lankin on her 1977 record Gypsy Without a Road on first hearing.

So with these two masters of their craft the Rhumbelow looked well set for a great Burns Night. Add to the mix six pipers piping, six drummers drumming and a rainy misty night worthy of a scene from “the Scottish play” and the recipe was complete. The evening began outside the theatre with a dramatic display from the Durban Regiment Pipe Band whose snapping highland snare drums and skirling bagpipes offered a few perennial favourites including Flower of Scotland, Amazing Grace and The Keel Row (even though ownership of the latter wonderful tune is argued between Scotland and Newcastle-on-Tyne).

The audience then proceeded into the theatre, where a lone piper serenaded the ceremonial haggis onto the stage where it was greeted by Frank Graham’s hearty invocation of Robert Burns famous Address to a Haggis complete with mouth-watering lines like “Great Chieftain o’ the puddin’ race” and (as he attacks the haggis with a knife) “ an’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht, trenching your gushing entrails bricht”. Heady stuff, matched only by the marvellous haggis itself which John Erasmus expertly carved and served up to an enthusiastic, and, in some cases, tartan kilted audience.

With the traditional formalities concluded, the entertainment kicks off with Miriam introducing us to Robert Burns, born in Alloway, Ayr, Scotland in 1759 to not very successful farming parents, an inauspicious start for the man who would come to be feted internationally as the national poet of Scotland. Mim chooses Banks of Doon (often called Ye Banks and Braes) to start and it’s a great choice – instantly recognizable with Mim’s beautiful voicing and immaculate acoustic guitar picking we are immediately in South West Scotland.

Frank then takes us through the backstory that lead Burns to write one of his most famous poems To A Mouse which he shares with us. Frank’s impeccable diction, perfect Scottish accent and sonorous delivery invest Burns’ famous lines with a dramatic lifeblood that is a complete joy to behold as “the best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men gang aft agley”.

Mim and Frank pass the turns between them, alternating between songs, humorous stories, sing-a-longs and saucy jokes that all play to the Burns / Scottish theme. Frank shares a poem by Scotland’s worst poet to great amusement, and Mim renders a lovely version of Leezie Lindsay which I last heard sung by Eddie Reader on the wonderful Transatlantic Sessions TV programme. Frank regales us with tales of Scottish dentists, Scottish archaeologists, Scottish pancakes and even a random Pole (!) while Mim has our toes tapping with Marie’s Wedding, a tune ripe for Gay Gordon ceilidh dancing.

Varying the pace we get gentle love songs (Annie Laurie) and stirring revolutionary invocations (Ye Jacobites by Name) although I was sad to hear that “Parcel of Rogues” had not made the final cut, as it is a personal favourite, both the versions by Scottish folkie Dick Gaughan and folk-rockers Steeleye Span. Song selection must have been tough as the Scottish songbook is an abundance of riches, but credit must be given for a well-balanced set.

Further variety came in the form of the deep alto tones of Mim’s viola with some “spot the tune” challenges that had us on our toes, while Frank had us guffawing at Blodwyn and her leek pies. A rousing rendition of the drunken ballad I Belong To Glasgow allows Mim and Frank to team up, then some hilarious McIntosh and McGregor stories from Frank and we’re into a sing-a-long of favourites like Scottish Soldier and Flower of Scotland. Cleverly, the production makes use of the large side screen to project the words to these tunes for an audience that knows the songs and, empowered by the screen prompts, sings along lustily.

Also included is the gorgeous ballad “Skye Boat Song” about Bonnie Prince Charlie’s escape to the Isle of Skye. I can attest to Frank’s accurate description of the Flodigarry Hotel on the Isle of Skye as I have overnighted there on my travels, being both a lover of things Scottish and an inveterate Jethro Tull fan. Their Scottish band leader Ian Anderson launched a highly successful salmon farming operation on the 50,000 acre Strathaird Estate on Skye that he bought in 1978 when he took up the rural farming life and produced his three “folk” albums Songs From The Wood, Heavy Horses and Stormwatch. But I digress.

Bonnie Prince Charlie features again in the familiar My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean complete with complimentary calisthenics exercises courtesy of Mim. Frank’s military stories of Argentinian war veterans, German officers and English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh prisoners is a tour-de-force of fast changing but always impeccable accents, delivered with the consummate timing of the seasoned comic actor and he has the audience roaring approval. In no time at all we are on our feet singing the obligatory closer Auld Lang Syne, perhaps Burns’ most frequently performed song.

Friday’s opening night had a few minor wobbles and moments where continuity can be tightened but these two professionals can take pride in a show that bears witness to Frank’s initial declaration of the impressive delivery of the Scottish nation and its favourite son.

Lovers of timeless Scottish tunes and great storytelling should not miss this endearing show. There are two more performances of Burns Night – today January 26 at 20h00 and tomorrow (January 27) at 14h00. (The theatre venue opens 90 minutes before show for drinks)

Tickets R150 (R130 pensioners and students with a valid student card) and tables seat 6. Family Pack pricing R300 for two adults and two children free. (No alcohol or food may be brought on to the premises). Tickets are cash or EFT only. Secure parking is available. Booking is through Computicket or contact Roland (also for large group booking discounts of 20 or more) on 082 499 8636 or email: or visit

(For Restaurant reservations contact 031 764 7843)

Tina’s Hotel is situated at 14 Beryldene Road in Kloof. – Mike Raftery