MacPhersons Rant

Thyme Productions plays on a good idea with this musical. The story of MacPhersons Rant is widely known, albeit in many different variations, which gives them plenty of material to work with. MacPherson is a romanticised travelling man of reputed strength and beauty, living the life of a jolly man and jester with his skill at playing the fiddle. Robert Burns’ poem, supposedly adapted from the original composed by MacPherson himself while in jail, provides a powerful lyrical backdrop to the musical, incorporating his wonderful verse into the play and providing a solid and well known base from which the story and script dramatically elaborate. MacPherson, following a deathbed request of his mother, comes to the county of Banffshire to seek out his father, who he believes to be the laird. The moment he arrives he has a mixed reception, the girls croon over him while the lairds legitimate son Ian greets this threat to his family security with outright hostility, as do the armed forces as being a gypsy was illegal at the time. On the dance floor he meets and falls in love at first sight with Bess, betrothed against her will to marry the laird who looks after her family. MacPherson pursues his love against the will of the despicable laird until he is banished from the community. After this MacPherson must come to terms with the love that he has lost, and to what lengths he will go to claim it back. The play sets up the whole background of the famous climax in great depth, making for a wholehearted story. The play was very enjoyable but was far from perfect. The overall story is excellent and the audience is effectively guided through and well entertained. Gems of the show sprang out with a wonderful set that left nothing to the imagination and lighting that left the audience stunned. Choreography of Ceilidhs and fights led to incredible scenes on the stage while many characterisations and plot developments made for easy entertainment. The actor that played MacPherson was very well accomplished, well cast as a lively and larger than life Scotsman who drew the audience to naturally side with him. However this was not made easy by the script. There were jarring instances of overdramatic and cringe worthy lines. The major falling point of the production was a confusion of its character. Cheesy and over the top songs of hardly any substance could not stand up next to the folk classics that fit into the play seamlessly. Every time another one of the love ballads whined across, the great steps made to ensure the play had character and real passion were lost, the attempt to be a musical did not mean it had to lose its class. Despite the good build up, moments that the audience were waiting for, such as the smashing of MacPherson's fiddle, were lost in confusion onstage. Despite this the show had the audience very well entertained and had potential to be excellent, however it needed to realise that the real substance did not lie in overdramatic lines and hollow ballads.

Reviews by Theo Barnes

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The Blurb

MacPhersons Rant is a brand new musical featuring traditional Scottish songs but with modern arrangements.

Combining the best in Scottish drum and pipe music with Celtic roots music to create startling new versions of classic Scottish folk songs such as; Ye Jacobites, Twa Recruiting Sergeants, Ye Banks and Braes, and The Roving Journeyman. The musical is bound to entertain Edinburgh theatre audiences at its world premiere in 2009; Scotlands Homecoming Year.

The story takes place in Banffshire in the late 17th Century and is set against the backdrop of the Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland. It tells the story of James MacPherson who was hung in Banff for being a gypsy and who smashed his fiddle on the gallows tree as he sung MacPherson Lament a well known and much loved song.

“It was by a woman’s treacherous hand, than I was condemned tae dee”

James’s story is the stuff of legend. There are conflicting historical accounts of his life and death which allows for some poetic licence in the storytelling; however the details of his hanging are true and the song he sang on the gallows is still sung today. Essentially he was an "Egyptian" or gypsy and he roamed the country singing in towns and chasing women. In the musical he returns to Banffshire to meet his Father who is the Laird Duff of Braco. He had been conceived after his mother (a servant) and the Laird had an affair. However on the day he arrives in Banff he meets and falls in love with Bess Fraser and that is where our story begins.......

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