The demise of the Byre Theatre as a thriving professional producing house following cuts after a major refurbishment was a big loss.
With any luck, this new production of a script originally penned by John Ward may help encourage the re-establishment of an artistic team at what is now a receiving house.
Ward's play was a heroic reimagining of the life and death of 17th-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.
Loading article content
Performed by a 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 is the illegitimate son of Laird Duff's former maid. When he falls for Bess, whose father promised her to Duff, a backdrop of 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 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 is the live harp and fiddle score played by musicians from Madras.
Under the guidance of Rachel Newton, its subtle under-scoring is a thing of quiet beauty.