The world premiere of Scottish singer-songwriter Horse McDonald’s autobiographical play, Careful, this is an inspirational story of her triumph with her sexuality through music, taking us on a journey from kelpie in the Brownies to one of Scotland’s most celebrated singers.
It was a tough life growing up gay in Lanark in the 70s and the audience witness the prejudices she endured and her fighting back against the anti-gay bullies. She ironically struggles with her birth name – “She-he-na” – as much as she struggles with her sexual identity, knowing she’s not like the other girls, and renames herself “Horse”, as she ‘used to go to the stables a lot’, identifying with these proud, majestic beasts.
There’s the humility of having to attend the school disco dressed in her mother’s Paisley shirt and her two tone loons, ‘about as experimental as it gets growing up in Lanarkshire’; the episode of abuse when she takes the wrong route her mother tells her not to on the way to the hairdressers; and the tale of the lady on a train who tells her about the doctor she should meet who could “help” her (to talk about gender reassignment).
The audience travel with her on her rise to stardom from appearing on The Tube, to getting a record deal, and the dark episode of needing an operation for vocal nodes, and triumphing finally with the ultimate invitation of being asked to perform at the Stonewall gig at the Albert Hall, ‘with all those years of struggle being worth it’.
There’s a lovely narrative running through the piece about her relationship with her mother and father, who drink tea and eat rich tea biscuits, and finding her ultimate soulmate, Alanna, getting married and attending the equal marriage vote at the Scottish Parliament on 4 February 2014 – “my face ached” – an acceptance of who and what she is.
For those with no previous cultural reference of Horse, her voice might be compared to Annie Lennox, Alison Moyet or Rumer. She’s a talented singer with a voice like melting chocolate. Her song, Careful, is sung with genuine emotion and from the heart.
Touching, truthful, bold and true, this show is what the Fringe is all about. When you have a voice, you must not be afraid to use it, and Horse certainly isn’t. This is a play with genuine talent and poignant messages, beautifully written by Lynn Ferguson and superbly directed by Maggie Kinloch. You’ll be “greeting” (crying) by the end.