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MacPherson’s Rant

Madras College, St Andrews
3 stars
The demise of the Byre Theatre as a thriving professional producing 
house following funding cuts after a major refurbishment was a major 
loss to St Andrews. With any luck, this new production of a script 
originally penned by John Ward may help encourage the re-establishment 
of a permanent artistic team at what is now primarily a receiving 
house.
Ward’s play was a heroic reimagining of the life and death of 
seventeenth century Scots wanderer, James MacPherson, who created his 
own mythology via the song he penned while awaiting execution. Kally 
Lloyd-Jones’ production of Linda Duncan McLaughlin’s adaptation was 
enabled by the Scottish Government-backed Year of Creative Scotland 
2012’s bestowment of the Scotland’s Creative Place Award to St Andrews. 
Performed by a mixed cast of professionals and community participants, 
the production is staged in a heated tent in the grounds of Madras 
College, and is a romantically inclined romp that suggests a kind of 
proto class war at play.

MacPherson here is the illegitimate son of Laird Duff’s former maid. 
When MacPherson falls for Bess, whose father has promised her to Duff, 
a backdrop of personal jealousy and Jacobite rebellion makes for an 
epic akin to a western. As played out on Janis Hart’s big wooden set 
with trees spilling into the auditorium, it’s a patchy show, but one 
which nevertheless highlights institutionalised misogyny and abuses of 
power and privilege.

As MacPherson, Martin Forry grows in confidence throughout, while Morna 
McDonald makes for a feisty foil as Bess. By far the best thing here is 
the live harp and fiddle score played by young musicians from Madras. 
Under the guidance of Rachel Newton, it’s subtle under-scoring is a 
thing of quiet beauty.

The Herald, November 29th 2012

ends



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