Theatre review: Horse McDonald in Careful

Horse McDonald in Careful at Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Horse McDonald in Careful at Edinburgh Festival Fringe
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Singer Horse McDonald had always declined invitations to tell her own story, until now, when she had the chance to make a piece of theatre with writer Lynn Ferguson.

Star rating: ****

Venue: Gilded Balloon at the Museum (Venue 64)

This is the result, an honest, and at times painful play, delivered by Horse herself, with all her characteristic warmth and likeability.

It’s the story of how a wee girl from Lanark ended up signing a major record deal and becoming one the country’s best loved singers. It’s also the story of a woman coming to accept herself and her sexuality, even as, in the same period, society becomes more accepting of her.

Two armchairs on stage represent Horse’s parents, Dugald and Vicky, whose love and support were a constant in her life. It’s hard to countenance now how few gay and lesbian role models there were, even 30 years ago; or that a teenager in the 1970s would be recommended for electroconvulsive therapy because she didn’t fit in; or a young gay woman in Glasgow in the 1980s would be pushed towards a kind of conversion therapy.

Lynn Ferguson has done a wise and unobtrusive job as a writer, honing and ordering the material while allowing the essence of Horse’s personality to come through. Horse herself, working with director Maggie Kinloch, might still be finding her feet in the business of acting, but wins us over almost immediately with her natural and complete sincerity.

At times it did feel as if an hour was too short: the material could do with more room to breathe, and another song or two would be welcome. But there is no disputing the power of a person telling their own story in a direct, uplifting manner, and finishing with a song. When that person has the voice of Horse McDonald, that can only be a bonus.

Until 29 August. Today 7:30pm.

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