How much of your future would you sacrifice in order to preserve the past? Sarah Burns is a mother and wife, but in 1865 she gave up her life in Australia to return to Britain. Granddaughter of Robert Burns, Sarah is the forgotten guardian of her family’s legacy; it is due to her that the world remembers Burns with so much devotion. Shonagh Murray has written a Fringe show this year in dedication to Sarah, which she spoke to The Fountain about.

TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, how exciting?  

We are really excited to return to the Fringe! Getting to premiere Armour: A Herstory of the Scottish Bard last year was a great experience so we’re really looking forward to bringing Armour back and to share our brand new work, Burns: A Lost Legacy.

TF: Burns: A Lost Legacy certainly sounds intriguing, what is the premise?

The show follows the story of Sarah Burns the granddaughter of poet Robert Burns and someone we met as a child in Armour. When we completed the run of Armour last year, we really felt that Sarah had more to say in her story so I started researching and found Sarah to be a strong woman for her time – she spoke out in the papers against a publishing company that she felt owed money to her family and for a woman to speak out like that was quite out of the ordinary. Whilst researching Sarah we found that she gave birth to nine children, five of whom died, which tragically wasn’t an unusual thing to happen during that time in history (1800s) but partner that with the fact that she was a well-travelled woman and actually left her husband and remaining child behind in Australia to come home to Britain and fight for her family’s legacy felt like such a powerful story that needed telling and could be the final piece of our “Women Behind the Bard” story.

And what drove the project, where did your influences lie?

Being a female-led company, our focus was on the women behind Robert Burns so those relationships between sisters, mothers, daughters, grannies and granddaughters were really important to us. But with Burns we also enjoyed getting to feature Sarah Burns’ husband, Berkeley, and his relationship with his daughter and wife.

The piece is following the family that lives on after Robert Burns so it felt right that his music and words should feature in the lives of the characters somehow, whether positively or negatively depends on those characters. Armour and Burns both have material by Robert Burns woven in to connect them to his legacy and Burns, being partly set in Australia during the 1800s, also has a hint of Australian folk music tied in.

TF: What are your plans for the Fringe, having been before are there any tips or musts you would offer to first-time performers?

As anyone who has done the Fringe before will know, the first thing we’ll be doing is flyer-ing and advertising as much as physically possible. We have a bigger theatre this year so we’re keen to get out there and tell everyone about the show and share it with as many people as we can. A few friends are doing the Fringe this year as well so we’ll be sure to go see their shows – Rave and Behave, Mara and Islander. As well as the shows by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s MA course, we are very proud graduates so we will be there for sure to support! The advice I would give first-time performers would be to enjoy every minute, even the tiring minutes because it will be over before you know it. And be diligent with your schedule – make time to flyer, see as many shows as possible and network where you can, if you leave those things to chance you might find two weeks have passed and you haven’t seen anything new!  

TF: And what are your future plans beyond Burns: A Lost Legacy?

We would love to revisit the two shows again so we’re hoping for a tour of Armour and Burns. With so many Burns Clubs nationally and internationally the interest is definitely there so watch this space for a Fearless Players Tour! 

You can see Burns: A Lost Legacy at Gilded Balloon, Rose Theatre from 9th – 25th August on various dates at 14:00. For tickets, go to https://tickets.edfringe.com/