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Fringe Online 2022

Low Down

The second of the trilogy, preceded by Nan makes History and followed by Urban Nan, Nan in Love is a curated continuation of Nan Shepherd’s story. We are now in a closed drawer mystery as the key to that drawer, which harbours the secret of why Nan “stopped” writing for 40 years. Sophia McLean and David Rankine continue their roles as an American interviewer tackling Nan on her life. Mr. Robertson, sent to write about Neil Gunn, has been told by Nan that the love secret is in the drawer, for which the key appears to be missing. Channeling their inner Phillip Marlowe, the lock is to be picked and they are to expose her secret – a love letter which shall explain all. And so, it does, but not in the conventional sense and not in any sense at all as the nonsense of misogyny is exposed to explain why in the 1970’s she was forced to self-publish a book which is testimony to time, as well as standing the test of time.



Having established the interview narrative as the delivery mechanism of the means of explaining away Nan Shepherd’s life and her writing we are now in the development of a relationship between our two protagonists. There is a continuation of the gentle verbal sparring between them, but it is beginning to mould itself into a mutual respect which is more likely to uncover the story than an argument – a prescient message for the whole story. Shepherd, as the woman who has much to give, but has been denied is sparky enough to show this willing upstart that she has played a game stacked against her by the very men who thought her good. Sophie McLean and David Rankine continue to deliver a combination of a curious disbeliever and a woman whose faith was placed in education and the greater good – for we now know, thanks to reimagined interviews of the time and the time she spent with her students, that she moved from the vocation of the written word to a greater vocation of teaching it.

But a note here, not for the creativity of the writing, the directing nor the performing. A note on the production team behind it all. The sound is beautifully balanced, the effects well imagined and delivered, especially the grainy radio commentary from days of yore. It adds an authenticity which I can attest, is often missing in dramas of a higher calibre, budget and reputation. It comes as a complete package.

But again, the real value is how this has been put together, with the technical acuity, writing, the directing and the performing.

The blatant misogyny of yesteryear is exposed through the reimagined interviews of the time add to the confusion and excitement of opening the drawer to find the truth. There is no disappointment in realising what that is, but a bemusement that someone who had much to give in a literary sense has a manuscript only seen by one man, one person, and did not feel they could take that forward until a large passage of time saw them self-publish. It is this fact, in a time when self-publishing can be seen by some as an egotistical drive to gain credit that stings. This was 59 years ago. That someone of clear and discernible literary ability would feel shallow in comparison with the depths of male writers when she is more than their equal makes this whole trilogy a challenge to the imagined world of Chris Guthrie. To hear that what is held up as the greatest Scottish trilogy was imagined in a place so far removed from the Mearns whilst Shepherd, as we hear with her students, breathed the air of the Cairngorms, to understand it, works beautifully.

And so, we are now away to hear what shall drop onto the internet as episode three and the conclusion. There is little doubt that I am looking forward to being both entertained and educated in equal measure by the final instalment. It’s been a fascinating journey thus far, the excitement is that we are not nearly there yet…