A NEW piece of musical theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe is set to explore Scottish poet Robert Burns in a global context.

Tales of Transatlantic Freedom, co-created by Andrea Baker and Howard Moody, and directed by John Paul McGroarty, is an exploration of Scotland’s global musical heritage.

“It’s an unusual experience. It’s not an opera. It’s not a ceilidh. It’s not Shakespeare but a combination of all the ways we can tell stories and speak our truth to a new live audience”, Baker told The National.

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Indeed, it’s hard to pin down exactly what Tales of Transatlantic Freedom is about such is the variety of its content.

Baker explained: “Tales of Transatlantic Freedom is really about trying to elevate and bring African diaspora voices to new audiences.

“It explores those narratives through music, through language and through movement with a particular focus on connections to Scotland.

The National: The show looks at Burns links to the African diasporaThe show looks at Burns links to the African diaspora

“We’ve travelled across the planet for thousands of years and Scottish influences and music have mixed and mingled with African diaspora culture and narrative and created new forms of music and means of communicating.

“So Tales of Transatlantic Freedom is a space where two seemingly unrelated communities come together through language.”

Among many of the connections the play explores is how the work of Burns holds links to African diaspora narratives.

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Baker describes herself as “American-born and Scottish by choice”.

She explains that Frederick Douglass (below) – a man born a slave who was a leader of the Underground Railroad movement in the 19th century – was able to purchase a book of Burns poems.

“He (Burns) has always had an influence in African-American poetry and I think there’s an interesting connection there in the spirit of freedom and Burns representing the downtrodden man and hopefully woman to some extent.

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“In the piece, we juxtapose his music with some of the stories about the abolitionist movement in Scotland and also a little bit about how Burns himself was almost caught up in the slave trade.”

The celebrated poet once intended to emigrate to Jamaica to work as a bookkeeper on a sugar plantation which made its money from the labour of slaves.

Effectively, the writer’s reasoning was that he was “broke” and in need of money, Baker explained, but Burns never ended up making the journey.

In terms of the play itself, Baker says she’s looking forward to things getting underway.

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“It will feel like you’re walking into a space where you’re completely removed from what you’ve left outside and we want to transport our audience to a new space.”

“This is the first time we’re doing a full theatre production of the piece and I’m excited to see how it all feels in an enclosed space.

“I can’t wait to play out these new ideas and stories.”

Tales of Transatlantic Freedom is playing in the Emerald Theatre (Venue 209) from August 15-19 and more information can be found HERE