The Ghosting of Rabbie Burns: Scottish bard gives dating advice in new play

Gillian Duffy

Gillian Duffy

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First published in the Press & Journal

Haggis, neeps and dating advice. This year, the ghost of Rabbie Burns will help Aberdeen theatre fans get over their ex-partners.

Written by Gillian Duffy, The Ghosting of Rabbie Burns follows heartbroken author Emily Winters as she travels to her aunt’s cottage in Ayrshire to stop thinking about her cheating ex.

As she celebrates Burns Night alone, she wishes that the right man would show up. Then, she gets a visitation slightly different than what she had hoped for – the ghost of Rabbie Burns appears to give her some dating advice and it turns out he knows what he’s talking about.

Gillian, who studied English literature and history, loves to combine these two subjects to come up with creative ideas for new plays.

She said: “Burns is a real-life historical figure and that was really something that interested me. I’m also writing another show about Mary Shelley. I like mixing real-life historical characters in literature with fiction.”

Irish writer pens play on Scottish writer

Originally from Ireland, some may wonder why Gillian decided to write a play about Burns who is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland.

Writer Gillian Duffy is excited to bring her play to Aberdeen, Elgin and Inverness.
She said: “He was a Scottish writer and I’m an Irish writer but I’m based here in Scotland. I’ve always been very interested in Burns, but there hasn’t been much focus on his personal life.

“Obviously, all his works have been covered and his poetry and songs are fantastic, but there hasn’t been much focus on his personal life – and he had quite a checkered life.

“He had a colourful social and romantic life. Although he was married, he had an awful lot of illegitimate children.

“He fitted a lot of into his 37 years and that’s what the play looks at.”

Modern-day vs 18th-century dating

The romantic comedy compares what dating used to be like back in the eighteenth century and how people find love in today’s world.

“The leading lady is a modern woman dealing with love and infidelity and getting over a relationship in the modern times,” said Gillian.

“It’s looking at Robert Burns – a figure from the eighteenth century – and his views on love, romance, infidelity, courting and marriage.”

With many people meeting their partners on online dating apps, the way people connect has changed completely. However, the play also looks at the universal things about love that Gillian believes will never change.

“Modern online dating is completely alien to Robert Burns, but then, some of the things he is talking about that would have been normal during his time wouldn’t be acceptable now,” said Gillian.

Featuring popular songs and poems

The writer was keen to feature the great songs and poems of Burns, such as My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose, Ae Fond Kiss, Charlie Is My Darlin and, of course, Auld Lang Syne, The Ghosting of Rabbie Burns.

Gillian said: “We’re covering his music, his songs and his lovely poetry. It may seem like it is a show that is maybe for older audiences and Burns fans, but because of ‘ghosting’ and Robert Burns appearing as a ghost, it’s hopefully a show that will attract younger audiences too.

“Ghosting is obviously a play on words, with the modern dating phrase to be ghosted.”

Romantic comedy ideal for post-Covid theatre trip
The show originally premiered in 2019, but due to Covid-19, the play is only just embarking on a national tour.

Gillian said: “The show is very much a romantic comedy. It’s a nice show for these times as it’s light and it’s a fun night out.

“We’ve been 100% dedicated so that this tour could go ahead. We really want to bring a night of comedy – whether it’s a date night or a girls’ night or a family night – to people.

“So it’s great that measures got relaxed and we got the good news. We’re going to be the opening show for most of the venues, which is exciting for them and for us.”

The 2022 run is directed by Scottish actor Jimmy Chisholm who plays Sonny Caplan in River City.

How to book tickets to see The Ghosting of Rabbie Burns
The show will travel to The Tivoli Theatre in Aberdeen on Tuesday February 15. Tickets can be purchased here. Sadly, the Elgin and Inverness tour dates were cancelled due to Covid-19 complications.

The Ghosting of Rabbie Burns isn’t the only show Gillian will be touring this year. Her comedy The Wedding Planners will visit Eden Court in Inverness on March 20, Elgin Town Hall on March 21, and The Tivoli Theatre in Aberdeen on April 10.

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