Burns: A Lost Legacy
- Kelly Apter
- 22 August 2019
Unsung hero remembered in this tale of love and sacrifice
While Robert Burns and his work has retained prominence the world over, the women behind his success (whether they were inspiring him, protecting his legacy or making his tea) are often forgotten.
Fearless Players set out to redress that in 2018, with their touching musical Armour: A Herstory of the Scottish Bard, which imagined a meeting between Burns' wife Jean Armour and his mistress Nancy Maclehose after his death. This year they've dug down a generation, bringing Burns' granddaughter Sarah into the spotlight.
We first met Sarah in Armour, as a young child learning about her late grandfather's work. In Burns: A Lost Legacy, she's a grown woman – and the legacy of the title is hers, not Robert's. For few people know about the price she paid on her grandfather's behalf.
Moving to Australia with her doctor husband and two children in the mid-19th century, Sarah Hutchinson (nee Burns) was visited by tragedy en route. The fall-out appears to have propelled her desire to return to Britain years later, to defend her grandfather's work and character – leaving behind a bereft husband and daughter.
A Lost Legacy may not have quite the emotional depth of Armour, but it's still an interesting window into a family we know so little about. Shonagh Murray wrote the book, music and lyrics for both musicals, and her gentle, traditional style is evident throughout. But despite the sadness and sacrifice of Sarah's life, her story doesn't quite carry the weight of the Jean/Nancy stand-off.
Regardless, this show is delivered with passion and commitment by all three performers, and brings us a little closer to knowing where, how and why Burns' popularity endures.
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre, until 25 Aug, 2pm.