South Scotland

Big Burns Supper: Haggis receives a steamy makeover

Burlesque Burns Supper Image copyright Colin Hattersley
Image caption A Burlesque Burns Supper is among the attractions at this year's festival in Dumfries

Le Haggis is a Burns supper like no other I've been to.

Raucous and raunchy, it had none of the traditional elements yet felt strangely appropriate given Burns' penchant for rousing company and, of course, his roving eye when it came to women.

The action takes place on a catwalk extension to the stage which brings performers right into the midst of the tables of haggis-eating spectators, or should that be voyeurs? Great care has to be taken not to choke at the more explicit antics.

It's essentially a fast-moving cabaret show, with constant musical accompaniment by Dumfries-based bands - Novantae and Caileag - both of which perform sets of their own in between the burlesque and the bizarre.

Into the latter category falls Diane McLean, a leading member of Dumfries Community Choir and the Electric Theatre Company and a larger-than-life lady who is clearly game for anything.

Her raunchy performance of Kirsty MacColl's "In These Shoes" will linger long in the memory - or perhaps more accurately the leather corset and red frilly knickers she was wearing while singing it.

Also hard to forget was the phenomenal physical strength, artistic agility and seductive sensuality of the male-female gymnastic/dance duo Hand to Hand, or the cheekily sexual pole dancing performance of the spectacularly muscular Edd particularly appreciated by the women in the audience.

However, the lady who added the biggest dose of spice to Le Haggis was the show-stealing exotic dancer Empress Shah.

'Daring and unique'

Her near-nude performance on a hoop suspended from the ceiling of the Spiegeltent was beautiful and spellbinding - highly sexual but never tawdry - and the fact that it was performed to a haunting rendition by Caileag's Holly Little of My Love is Like a Red Red Rose put it completely into context.

Towards the end of her aerial contortions, Burns himself strode on to present the dancer with a bunch of roses which she accepted before seductively tearing off the petals with her hands and her teeth.

I do believe the Bard might, for once, have been lost for words.

As a Burns celebration, Le Haggis was daring and unique.

But what a great appetiser for the rest of the packed weekend programme the Big Burns Supper organisers have lined up.

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