By Veronika Kallus
Indian Peter welcomes us to his Coffee House on the High Street. Adam Smith is there today, and James Watt. Also Rabbie Burns, Adam Ferguson and Robert Adam (strange, this collection of Roberts and Adams, isn’t it!?). Economists, philosophers, poets, historians, architects, inventors and engineers – all these outstanding figures of the Scottish Enlightenment are gathering here over a cup of coffee and some conversation this afternoon.
Obviously they don’t – but they could have. And at various occasions, in various coffee houses, in 18th century Edinburgh, some of them in whatever combinations did meet, drink coffee, smoke tobacco and debate their progressive ideas.
Mike Maran, dressed up in Delaware Indian costume and speaking as Peter Williamson, known as Indian Peter in his day, welcomes his guests, talks about inventions and theories, poems and postal services (one of which Peter Williamson established in Edinburgh in the 1770s) as if he never did anything else. Well, he is an immensely skilled and experienced storyteller, with delicately crafted tales and deeply researched stories that delight his audiences again and again.
This particular one gives his talent room to expand in so many directions. Just the story of Indian Peter himself has so many layers. Brought up in Aberdeenshire, kidnapped, shipped to America, shipwrecked, purchased as a farm labourer, allowed to make his own living, family, farm – then all lost again in raids by Indians, taken by them as a slave, escaping, joining the army, being captured by the French. Finally he was shipped back to England after 12 years. That’s where he started to tell his story.
Also the setting in a Coffee House on the Royal Mile allows Mike Maran to expand in multiple directions, embracing Deacon Brodie and Burke and Hare as well as Robert Fergusson’s epitaph or Sir Walter Scott’s story telling skills.
A fantastic, informative, atmospheric hour of storytelling and delightful music played and performed by Rona Wilkie on the violin and directed by Patrick Sandford. Don’t miss this firework of thought and stories.