Edinburgh Fringe 2017
Inspiring stories and songs of women’s activism, struggle and courage-from the Dundee jute mills to the Vietnam war, from the witch-killings to Zero Tolerance.
‘Bonnie Fechters’ are women of activism and resistance who have lived their lives with courage and made the world a better place, often contributing to significant social change. These are individual lives to be remembered and celebrated, and as the performance unfolds, we get a sense of the many women from different time periods and countries who have been hidden from history.
Morna Burdon’s show alternates story with song. She selects historical material and detail carefully, making potentially complex history very accessible so that we follow it easily. The stories are relevant and personal, whether it is women fighting for trades union rights, resisting war and oppression or campaigning against domestic violence. The section on witch-hunting in Scotland is especially resonant and powerful.
The songs are unaccompanied and performed with control and clarity. They include traditional Scottish ballads, women’s campaign songs and original compositions from the UK and abroad. The arrangement of the songs and the singularity of an individual voice allow us to focus on the content. Burdon presents the songs with complete sincerity, ranging from the visceral and motivational to the wistful and sad.
Throughout the show, it is the narrative and power of the women’s stories that take centre-stage, whether spoken or sung. The material speaks for itself and is presented without set or backdrop.
Burdon also includes herself in this narrative, by linking to her previous work on women for Scottish theatre productions, as well as her family roots in Dundee. This provides an interesting autobiographical layer to the show and a further Scottish perspective.
There is authenticity in Burdon’s performance and delivery along with a gently developed relationship with the audience. The structure of the show-with humour along the way-ensures that we are fully engaged politically, but without being told what to think.
The show works equally well for those who have some prior knowledge of this history and for those who do not. It is complete in itself but the message is a work in progress, to revisit and remember women’s history. This is necessarily a selection of ‘Bonnie Fechters’ and not the final word on the subject. The search for the stories goes on, as Burdon continues to research and encourages others to do so.
This sold-out show was very well-received by an enthusiastic audience. It is intimate, heartfelt and inspiring-and is highly recommended.