Legacy: A Mother's Song

Legacy: A Mother's Song, one of two devised musicals under the 'Legacy' banner at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe, is the distinctly less crowd-pleasing of the pair. Whilst there is no need to see A Mother's Song in order to comprehend The Book Of Names and vice versa, they do make for an interesting comparison piece when placed side-by-side. Whilst the latter throws its voices to the back of the room and lifts the spirits of the audience with rousing anthems and archetypal storylines, the former, A Mother's Song, tells a much subtler story. It is a story of equal power but played with far more intensity, creating an altogether different but equally powerful viewing experience.

A musical of considerable depth and power

A Mother's Song tells the story of three women at different points in history sending messages to their future generations via letters and recordings. In a structure that evokes David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, the story cocoons itself inside this narrative structure and gets its emotional responses from the way the generations interact with each other across the divide of time. As all three women deal with their world's response to pregnancy and its impact on family life, we are given a glimpse into the lives of women and their right to choose. It is a story laden with complex emotions and heavy thematic implications which the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the American Music Theatre Project give appropriate attention to, resulting in a musical with a heavy-hitting emotional impact that is light on levity and crowdpleasing musical numbers.

The cast deliver this weighty material with skill and gravitas, lending their characters an extra dimension difficult to convey in an hour-long musical with a large cast. The arguable "leads" in the show, Chole Howard and Sandra Gidlof, as modern day couple Sarah and Alix, are impressive both as individuals and in their chemistry with one another. Gidlof is an extraordinary singing talent and Howard is the most nuanced actor of the group, finding huge depth in her role, even with the amount of characters she has to share the stage with. Sally Swanson and Ingrid Gräsbeck complete the trio of women who explore the show's central theme, both also performing with admirable passion and commitment. The male cast of the show lacks the material afforded the women, but it seems here that despite talent shown by the likes of Jacob Bedford and Elijah Warfield it is clear why the women are the stars of this show.

A Mother's Song is hugely impressive in its exploration of complex themes in an hour-long dramatic musical. Most similar shows of twice the length and exposure don't dare to alienate their audience with the kind of thematic material mined and composer Finn Anderson (along with co-story writer Tania Azevedo) have crafted a musical of considerable depth and power. While its counterpart, The Book Of Names, is undoubtedly the bigger crowdpleaser of the pair, A Mother's Song is a beautiful and deeply personal work of theatre that is thoroughly rewarding for those looking for that rarely succesful thing: the purely dramatic musical.

Reviews by Charlie Ralph

Pleasance Courtyard

Ciarán Dowd: Don Rodolfo

★★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

Sarah Keyworth: Dark Horse

★★
Summerhall

The Basement Tapes

★★★★★
Assembly George Square Studios

Kate Berlant: Communikate

★★★★
Assembly Hall

Legacy: A Mother's Song

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

What makes a mother? For some it's biological, but it's also about instinct, responsibility, what you teach and pass on. Three women, at different times in history but each on the verge of motherhood, find connection through the traditional Scottish songs passed down their family tree. The family stories embedded in these songs help guide each of them through events and decisions that have the potential to change their lives forever. A new musical featuring a contemporary folk score and a cast of actor-musicians.