Edinburgh 2018: BWW Review: ARMOUR: A HERSTORY OF THE SCOTTISH BARD, TheSpace
"I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy, naething could resist my Nancy: but to see her was to love her; love but her and love for ever."
These are lines from Robert Burns' iconic "Ae Fond Kiss". Armour: A Herstory of the Scottish Bard is a new musical written by Shonagh Murray and directed by Melanie Bell that addresses who Nancy and the other women featured in his poetry were and what might have happened if they had met after his death.
Murray's score blends elements of Burns' songs with her own folk style compositions allowing the women to reflect on the love they had for the famous poet and how it has affected them. The cast's voices blend well creating wonderful harmony and polyphony of lilting Celtic tunes.
A trio of actors accompanied at the piano by Murray (and occasional additional mandolin playing by Bethany Tennick) portray his granddaughter, Sarah Burns (Tennick); wife, Jean Armour (Lori Flannigan) and mistress, Nancy Macklehose (Lydia Davidson). Davidson and Tennick also play some other parts such as housemaids and the simple use of accessories (scarves and aprons etc.) helps to distinguish between these characters.
Tennick plays Sarah with an eager chattiness, which delights and even amuses the audience at times. Davidson's Nancy has the right balance of passion and caution, aware of her role as the "other women", determined to make amends but also protect her identity.
Flannigan as the widow of the Scottish Bard demonstrates a toughness as she confronts her deceased husband's mistress in order to move on with her life, yet also a softness demonstrated in scenes between her and her granddaughter.
A recurring lyric within the show is that "we are made of the women around us" which is particularly striking as the characters recall how Robert Burns influenced their lives, but also how they shaped each other. Armour challenges attendees to remember these women in their future Burns Night toasts and is a charming piece of Scottish storytelling.
Photo credit: Fearless Players