Duns Players' Edinburgh Festival debut
Founded in the early years of the 20th century and re-launched in 2008 by the recently departed, great hero of the town, Bob Noble*, Duns Players has become in recent years known throughout the Borders for its varied repertoire of freshly re-imagined classics and edgy productions of new, mainly Scottish, drama.
Its Macbeth in 2019 was thought by the Berwickshire News reviewer to be the best rendering of the play she had ever seen, while dark and contemporary themes have been remorselessly explored in such foul-mouthed modern pieces as Glengarry Glen Ross, Gagarin Way and Broth.
You never know quite what to expect with Duns Players except excellence: they are seriously good.
Never having been to the Edinburgh Festival but able to commute to it, Duns Players – whose ambition gave rise to DunsPlayFest, now firmly established as an annual, early May, week-long festival of new drama – is overdue a visit.
For their first foray they have chosen something outwith their usual repertoire, ‘Colonel Anne: Jacobite Heroine’, by David Shirreff.
The play depicts the life of the truly fierce Scottish heroine who fought off thousands of soldiers with just a handful of servants, saved a prince from British raiders and is said to have changed the fate of the ‘45 Jacobite rising.
Lady Anne Farquharson-MacKintosh gained her nickname Colonel Anne during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion as she rallied 350 troops to fight as part of the Jacobite cause in the Clan Chattan Regiment.
While her husband Angus MacKintosh, Chief of Clan MacKintosh, a captain of the Black Watch Regiment was fighting against the Jacobites.
This play, a truthful account of the part played in the uprising of 1745 by Colonel Anne Mackintosh, is tense and vivid and amusing, a glimpse backstage at history which will give audiences a real sense of the turmoil and the emotional cost of war.
In this case that cost was especially high because Colonel Anne raised Clan Chattan in support of Charles Edward Stuart and the Jacobite cause in defiance of her husband Angus who fought on the other side.
To know how the tale unravelled readers will have to go along to the very central festival location of Jeffrey Street in August, details below.
The play, first shown at DunsPlayFest in 2019, was written by David Shirreff whose distinguished career as a financial journalist (he co-founded Risk magazine and for many years was a regular contributor to The Economist) came to an end when he saw that he could shed more light on economic and political goings-on via the medium of the satirical musical.
His musicals Broke Britannia!, Euro Crash!, Barack and the Beanstalk and Brexit the Musical have all been produced to acclaim, mostly in London. Shirreff’s first cousin, James Shirreff, a long-term resident of Duns and President of Duns & District Amateur Opera Society, is co-producing Colonel Anne and James’s sister Penny Hemphill and her Suffolk based folk group Wagstaff and Lack have written and recorded the music for the show.
The Shirreff involvement is particularly exciting to the cousins as they are indeed relatives of Lady Anne Mackintosh. The age-blind cast is led by veterans of many a Duns Players production including Carol Robson in the title role, local celebrity Peter Lerpiniere as her long-suffering spouse and businessman Jerry Ponder as the creepy rascal, Lord Loudoun.
With tickets selling fast and an interested audience guaranteed for the fascinating subject matter (especially in this, the tri-centenary year of Colonel Anne’s birth) and the always interesting Duns Players, early booking is strongly recommended.
David Shirreff, the writer, said: “This is a heroic tale of female courage and independence that cried out to be retold. Colonel Anne was just one of many women who have been forgotten by history and we hope that performing at the Edinburgh Fringe will help bring her to a wider audience. Colonel Anne has been four years in the making and a big thanks to Duns Players for making it happen.”
Lady Anne risked her life for a cause she truly believed but she doesn’t even have a proper gravestone.
Now, a fresh bid to recognise the heroine with a proper memorial in the North Leith Burial Ground, is gaining momentum. The cast visited the grave where there is a small metal notice which she shares with other people buried there.
Colonel Anne: Jacobite Heroine will be on at 6.50pm (performance is 70 minutes long), August 11 – 19 (no show on August 13), the Space @ Venue 45, 63 Jeffrey Street, Edinburgh EH1 1DH.
Tickets £12, £10 (conc), £8pp (families) available via the Fringe Box Office online: https://tinyurl.com/4tzaup2u or by calling 0131 226 000.