Fringe: Horse McDonald in Careful

Horse McDonald in Careful at Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Horse McDonald in Careful at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

A remarkable story told from the heart with utter honesty.

Horse McDonald in Careful

Gilded Balloon at the Museum (Venue 64)

Rating *****

Horse’s concerts have always featured lots of chat as well as great music.

But even her most ardent fans will be stunned, and moved, at her story, told, in detail, for the very first time in this remarkable show.

Careful takes its name from her signature song, but this is far removed from a Horse concert - it’s a capitvating and compelling story told from the heart.

It starts and finishes with Horse on stage at the Albert Hall, nerves jangling, ready to sing Careful, before going back to the very beginning and telling her story.

And it’s no ordinary tale.

Growing up as a gay woman in Lanark in the 1970s was incredibly tough, and coming to terms with her sexuality takes her to consider gender re-assignment as well as corrective therapy - powerful, jaw-dropping revelations aired for the very first time.

She railed against her real name, Sheena, and endured the verbal taunts and ignorance of others as she found her way in life.

Careful paints a vivid picture of those early years in Lanark, but it also finds light in the dark - the visits to cafes, memories of the school disco, the days when loon pants were fashionable to one generation, appalling to another.

There’s also the bond with her late parents which remained constant regardless of how they may have truggled to understand that she was ‘different’- their photo appears on the table flanked by the two armchairs they once occupied.

Careful captures those early days quite beautifully thanks to the direction of Maggie Kinloch -and the writing of Lynn Ferguson, as well as Horse’s own performance.

If anything the music of Horse is limited - there’s a blast of a Gay Gordons, the sounds of T-Rex and the classical music her dad loved - while the score includes excerts from just three songs, with the haunting plea of ‘careful with my heart’ running through the very heart of this deeply personal narrative, told with absolute honesty.

Horse’s story also chimes with the fight for equality- she was at the Scottish Parliament they day it legalised gay marriage and sank to her knees in joy -and how the human spirit can endure through the toughest of times.

Careful, the song, remains a thing of beauty. It has now inspired a play that is simply remarkable.

Run ends August 29

Allan Crow