A Man’s A Man

Aug 13 2019 | By More

★★★★☆    Moving and fun

The Stand’s New Town Theatre (Venue 7): Fri 2 – Sun 24 Aug 2019
Review by Joy Watters

Robert Burns’ poetry has an inherent melodic quality of its own and staging a full-length musical on his life and work seems like a natural progression.

First staged on the Fringe last year, A Man’s A Man attracted the attention of Fair Pley arts production company which has helped develop it as professional undertaking for 2019.

Eva Traynor and Ewan Petrie. Pic Fair Pley

The show is the creation of two Edinburgh teachers, Rod Grant headmaster of Clifton Hall School and his colleague there, Martin Franssen. A native of Ayrshire like Burns, Grant believed the life story of Burns would make a great musical and Franssen shared that interest, bringing his musical talents to compose new music for Burns’ words.

Divided into three sections, A Man begins in 1759 at Burns’ Alloway farm illustrating his leap from labouring in the fields to penning poetry. His ever-changing attitude to women is present throughout from true love for Jean Armour who he abandons to pursue a literary career to lust by way of concern for women’s rights.

Ever difficult to fathom, there is a modern quality to Burns that actor Ewan Petrie captures beautifully. The work moves to Edinburgh and the offices of his publisher and his acceptance into society. Success does not last and he takes to the bottle finally returning to Ayrshire promising to reform.

a talented quartet

The other roles are taken on by a talented quartet of players, Kirsty McDuff, Eva Traynor, Martin Murphy and Neil John Gibson, who sing and act with conviction and brio. They are all alive to the various demands of their roles, peopling the world that surrounded the ploughman poet.

The cast of A Man’s A Man. Pic: Fair Pley

The twenty scenes mesh together perfectly under the assured direction of Liz Carruthers who steers it to its tragic end, sensitively charting the ups and downs of Burns’ various lives. The play swiftly moves along along running the gamut of emotions until the heartbreaking moment of Burns’ tragic death at only 37. It was the same day as Jean Armour gave birth to another child.

One potential stumbling block to an audience’s enjoyment is the newly-composed recorded music. The traditional tunes associated with Burns’ words are gone, replaced by Franssen’s modern compositions which combine a light folky feel with a pop vibe.

Burns’ gems of lyrics may need a more substantial counterpoint to really sparkle.

Running time: One hour and 30 minutes (no interval)
The Stand’s New Town Theatre, Freemasons’ Hall, George Street, EH2 3DH (Venue 7)
Friday 2 – Sunday 25 August 2019
Daily (not Tue 13): 1.20pm
Tickets and details: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/man-s-a-man

Facebook: @Fair-Pley-112025182153063

A scene from A Man’s A Man. Pic Fair Pley


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