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Fringe Review: Armour: A Herstory of the Scottish Bard @ theSpace at Jury's Inn


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At the end of January each year, people across Scotland, and around the world, toast to the life and poetry of Robert Burns – Scotland's most famous poet. However, there is rarely any reference to the women in his life despite the fact that they inspired much of his work.

The Fearless Players have come to Edinburgh’s Fringe to tell the stories of some of these women, particularly Burns’ wife, Jean Armour, and mistress, Nancy Maclehose.

The plot follows these women in the days following Burns’ death. As Armour (Lori Flannigan) deals with the loss of her husband, she is aided by the youthful energy and optimism of her granddaughter Sarah Burns (Nina Gray). This beautiful relationship opens the show, setting the context in the home of the Burns themselves, before Armour heads to Edinburgh and bumps into Maclehose (Lydia Davidson) at the house of a mutual friend.

The two women agree to meet for tea and, although the meeting is initially awkward, the scene soon becomes one of hilarity as tea is swapped for whiskey and the women share their memories of the womanizing bard. The women navigate the challenging route of friendship and trust, in the wake of the bard’s actions, and discover various secrets along the way.

Throughout the show, music is the main vehicle for the stories – a wonderfully empowering compilation of Scottish folk music interwoven with the words of Burns himself (composed by Shonagh Murray).  This performance provides a taste of Scottish history and culture to international tourists, as well as bringing nostalgia and pride to locals. The voices of the cast are so impeccable, and the music so emotive and inspiring, that this performance will bring a smile and a tear to nearly every audience member.

However, the venue undermines the power of this performance. This incredible show would suit a national venue rather than one of the Fringe’s converted spaces (this particular one took place in a hotel conference room). The black curtain surrounding the stage and audience does not reach all the way to the ceiling so light seeps in. Due to the brightness of the room, it is difficult to become completely absorbed in the period performance – a process which would have been easy if the room was dark, and the only light on the performers themselves.

Audience members are given a small programme containing information on the cast, plot, as well as a short glossary of Scottish terms. On the back cover, there is even a brief timeline outlining the movements of Burns, Armour and Maclehose. This programme adds a professional touch to the informal Fringe setting, and allows audience members to catch up on their history and dialect before the show – without this, many people may have been lost.

Rooted in this Scottish musical are themes of female empowerment and solidarity, and the importance of family and friendship. Everyone will leave feeling inspired and educated – this show fits perfectly into the setting of Scotland’s capital.

Armour: A Herstory of the Scottish Bard is at theSpace @ Jury’s Inn, Main Theatre (Venue 260) 14.10, August 15-18, 20-25. For more information and tickets click here.

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