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Enlightenment House

The Georgian House, Edinburgh
Four stars
Things are getting strange inside number 7 Charlotte Square, the Edinburgh New Town des-res now under the care of the National Trust for Scotland as The Georgian House and marketed as a tourist attraction. The ghosts of philosophers past are gathering within such hallowed halls in Ben Harrison’s hour-long entertainment, which leads an audience of up to 30 from room to room. Harrison’s production serves up a taste of life when Edinburgh’s city fathers had something resembling vision and imagination which Edinburgh’s current misadventures in property developer friendly town planning are sorely lacking.

Greeted on the ornate stairwell by Mark Kydd’s portrayal of the building’s architect Robert Adam, Adam takes poetic pride in the elevated creation he never lived to see. In the dining room, David Hume and Adam Smith are arguing the toss about the meat on their respective plates before they become aware of those watching them. The pair pop up again later, pontificating on the potential wonders of Europe inbetween eavesdropping on what they presume to be the girl next door, proving themselves not nearly as enlightened as they presume.

In the bedroom, meanwhile, novelist Susan Ferrier seeks emancipation of her own, while both up and downstairs, a woman’s place is either purely decorative or else solely to provide domestic sustenance.

Those familiar with Harrison’s work with site-specific auteurs Grid Iron might recognise familiar tropes of sex, food and taking literary delights off the page in this commission by The Georgian House’s NTS trustees. Kydd, Christopher Craig, Tom McGovern and a wonderful Nicola Roy playing all four female roles breathe insightful and pithily pertinent life into Edinburgh iconography. As the nights draw in, both seasonally and in what feels like the dawn of global endarkenment, a reimagining of history on our own doorstep has rarely possessed such strong foundations. 

The Herald, November 19th 2018
Ends


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