Billed as ‘Scotland’s sexiest cabaret show’, Le Haggis has returned to Dumfries’ Burns Night celebrations for the second year running. And we’re lucky enough to get a ticket! As we settle into the sold-out Spiegeltent, the lights dim, (real) haggis arrives to satisfy our stomachs, and then the show begins.
The music hits us first, and it’s the real star of this event. The soundtrack is Scottish through and through, from the classics (Rabbie’s ‘My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose’) to the charts (Calvin Harris’ ‘Feel So Close’). The talented (and tartaned) vocalist chants the lyrics as the kilted band behind him make melodies. Around the Spiegeltent, the bass thumps and the strobe lights circle as the carnivalesque ceilidh begins.
There’s burlesque gymnasts, trapeze artists and can-can girls, all flirting with the concept of ‘classy’ nakedness. It’s actually easy to forget the acrobat’s lack of clothing, because her performance is so skilful and death-defying. It’s the satirical acts, though, that really push boundaries of sexuality and expectation. There’s a male belly dancer that eyes the crowd with the most challenging facial expression (as if to say, why the hell can’t I shake my stomach? We’re in a free Scotland) and a questionably-gendered singer who proceeds to straddle shocked males on the front row. There are several scared faces, but from the booths all around me I just hear laughter.
It’s the humour of Le Haggis that really deserves ‘a grace as lang’s my arm’. There may be the occasional crass joke, but ultimately the entire production is a very Scottish story of self-mockery and patriotic awareness. From the political allusion of the opening ‘God Save the Queen’, to the topless Burns protégé singing ‘Auld Lyne Syne’, Le Haggis is a contemporary fusion of British, French and Scottish traditions. But it’s the latter — this revitalised remembrance of Robert Burns, who put our burghs, glens and girls into writing — that has made Le Haggis such a hugely loved part of Dumfries’ Big Burns Supper.
Images copyright Colin Hattersley (www.colinhattersley.com).