The Prophecy is Now

September 8, 2014 | By | Reply More

New Scottish musical premieres this week

Prophecy, a brand new Scottish musical by MST Productions, will get its world premiere at the St Bride’s Centre this week, running from Tuesday to Saturday.

Fiona Main (Isabella, Lady Seaforth) and David Bartholomew (the Seer). Photo:

Fiona Main (Isabella, Lady Seaforth) and David Bartholomew (the Seer). Photo: Simon Boothroyd

The musical is based on the legend of the Brahan Seer, otherwise known as Kenneth Mackenzie, who lived in the Highlands in the early part of the seventeenth century, was involved with the ill-fated House of Seaforth, and several of whose prophecies are said to have come true.

Dramatising the Seer’s life, from his birth in Uig on Lewis to his untimely death at Chanonry Point on the Black Isle, with some of his predictions in between, Prophecy was written by the trio of Iain Mackintosh, Ken Sutherland and Ian Turnbull – the M, S and T of the production company.

According to Ken Sutherland, who is originally from Argyll, “The Seer’s predictions are still regularly quoted in the Gaelic world. He would have spoken Gaelic and moved among Gaelic speakers; perhaps that is one of the reasons he is not such a well known figure south of the Highland line – though his name has been mentioned recently by some in the context of the Referendum debate.

“We decided to try to bring the Seer to the stage in the capital and to tell his story in as direct and entertaining a way as possible, through music, song, and dance. The musical is in English but will have strong resonances for Gaels.”

Ian Turnbull, who is a long-time member of Leitheatre, told Æ that the three writers have been friends since they met at school in the sixties. They have done folk singing together and written some of their own songs, although before now none have been sung by anyone else.

Lots of tunes in mind

The idea for Prophecy came in 2005, when Cameron Mackintosh announced his Quest for a Highland Musical – ultimately won by the Keilty Brothers’ Edinburgh-set vampire tale Sundowe with Highland love story Whisky Kisses as runner up.

“I am not quite sure why we thought we could enter it, but we had lots of tunes in mind and we were able write tunes,” says Turnbull.

David Bartholomew (the Seer) and Jennifer Good (Catriona Grant). Photo: Simon Boothroyd

David Bartholomew (the Seer) and Jennifer Good (Catriona Grant). Photo: Simon Boothroyd

“It was supposed to be a Highland story so we worked out as many topics as possible based on Highland people, and settled on the Brahan Seer. A lot of Scottish people have not heard of him, particularly in the lowland areas, so we thought it was an interesting story and we put in our first submission with a synopsis and a couple of sample tunes.”

Although they didn’t manage to make the first cut, when the initial 144 entries where whittled down to 43, there were enough supportive comments from friends who are involved in the theatre world for the trio to carry on.

A friend of a friend put them in touch with Elizabeth Sutherland from the Black Isle, author of the 1974 novel The Seer of Kintail, who has been very supportive over the years. Eventually, a first draft was completed in 2010 with the trio responsible for libretto, music and lyrics.

Since then, Simon Hanson and James McCutcheon of Edinburgh-based JS Music Solutions have become involved in orchestration and arranging the songs, as well as creating a concept album. However, the trio’s dream of getting an amateur company to perform the show was not to be realised.

civil strife, religious extremes and superstition

As Ian Turnbull told Æ: “Eventually we decided we are retired now, we have got our pension money and we can afford to put it on ourselves. We got a decent grant from Awards for All to help with it. And we have access to people like the director, Alan Borthwick, who has pretty much got the production team together from people he has worked with through the Edinburgh G&S Society.”

Several members of Edgas are involved in the production, along with singers recruited by Simon Hanson and James McCutcheon. Linda Stewart helps out on musical direction and arrangements, while choreography is by Paige Orme. However, this is far from being in the mould of Gilbert and Sullivan.

As Iain Mackintosh says: “We need to remember that the seventeenth century was a period of civil strife, religious extremes and superstition in Scotland. Witch hunts, loaded trials, and summary executions were all too frequent. The Seer’s story unfolds in the shadow of such events.

“Clearly someone who was making pronouncements about the future would have been walking a very fine line then. So although Prophecy is a musical, it does not side-step the issues of that time and touches on some of these darker areas. But first and foremost it is about the Seer himself and how he engaged with his extraordinary gift and singular destiny.

“Prepare for supernatural chills, romance, comedy, time travel, betrayal and revenge, all communicated through a feast of action and suspense, memorable music and song.”

Prophecy, A New Scottish Musical
St Bride’s Centre, 10 Orwell Terrace, EH11 2DZ
Tue 9 – Sat 13 Sept. Daily: 7.30pm; Sat mat: 2.30pm.
Ticket £12 (£10 for parties of 5 or more) from the Usher Hall website: www.usherhall.co.uk/en-GB/shows/prophecy/info
Or phone: 0131 228 1155

Prophecy website – www.prophecymusical.co.uk
Prophecy on facebook: www.facebook.com/prophecymusical

ENDS

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