Morna Burdon (Scotland)
PAYNE How was Bonnie Fechter?
M-G Bonnie Fechters?
PAYNE Hang on, is her name not-
M-G According to Morna Burdon – the sole performer of Bonnie Fechters – A Bonnie Fechter is someone who stands up for themselves or for what they believe in.
PAYNE I think I called her Bonnie…
M-G I’m sure that’s not an insult.
PAYNE Still… How was the show?
M-G So, it was a collection of songs – and the songs ranged from popular protest pieces to genuinely obscure; but you know as much as the songs it was her well-researched and often personally connected stories that drew a sense of the real- or maybe, yes, the immediate to stories that ranged hundreds of years. Morna has a beautiful voice and the choices of songs were beautiful, and moving, and inspiring but perhaps I almost expected that, so ultimately it was her ability to position them in a historical, social and political context that gave them the weight that elevated them. The stories transported us to the time and place of the songs. So in that respect – this is a very moving show.
PAYNE You were moved. Moved to action?
M-G Oh I was oscillating between angry tears, and shouting for revolution.
PAYNE A Glorious Revolution!
M-G Is that- why is that capitalised? Are you shouting?
PAYNE The Glorious Revolution was a famous Scottish revolution from, the 1600s.. I better look it up. 1700s. I’m not sure if they’re proud of it.
M-G Who was revolting?
PAYNE It’s about Mary deposing her father King James VII.
M-G So Bonnie Fechters, it was about women led revolts. Though not about the swapping of a king for a queen. About little people, with little people problems. And in keeping with the spirit of little people – it was in an intimate venue, at the Museum of Alchemists, stars painted on the walls, some dark blue velvet drapes.
PAYNE Plush. I’ve never been. Is there gold there?
M-G Morna was a guiding star at the centre. Though I mean it doesn’t feel like Bonnie Fechters is an intrinsically theatrical work. I think it would be just as worthy on the radio. Or I did until we were all singing along together.
PAYNE Yes, that’s “the magic of theatre”! You know, people sharing a space together for a time. Radio can never do that.
M-G And I suppose for a work about live protest, you can only have that live.
PAYNE Did you go to a Ceilidh one night too?
M-G I danced with a beautiful Czech woman-
PAYNE I’m always surprised by how much fun it is to swing this way and that with strangers.
M-G Are you- this is the second review you’ve mentioned swinging. And you’re right the Ceilidh did have a sort of 70s feel to it. Like apricot chicken. And fondue.
PAYNE And pampas grass.
M-G But then due to a little mix up in my understanding of how far to spin around – to the stern acceptance of the Czech/Scott men – I danced the role of a woman for a half hour or so.
PAYNE And what did you take away from the experience?
M-G I don’t love how you have to crook your wrist.
PAYNE The injustice.
M-G One particularly hirsute and muscled fellow did treat me like a princess though so I think I have no regrets.
PAYNE And Bonnie… sorry, Bonnie Fechters?
M-G The range of injustices from witch burnings, suffragettes, strikers, a modern photojournalist. It could be meaningless without adequate context or crushing without the beauty of the songs – in Morna’s hands it’s all inspirational stuff.
PAYNE How many ‘Union Maid’s out of five?
M-G Five (bread and) roses out of five.