The Scotsman 8 February 2023

Most of us have little sense of family history beyond our grandparents. Go a few generations back and things get vague. But one way the past continues to talk to the present is through culture. Songs, stories and poems are handed down from one age to the next, finding new resonances as they go. The words you sing in a folk song might once have been in the mouth of some distant ancestor.

This tradition is one of the ideas underpinning A Mother’s Song, a new musical that skips across 400 years of history as it journeys from Scotland to Ulster to West Virginia. “I was interested in the idea of the migration of song,” says composer Finn Anderson. “As a song travels, it changes and evolves. Scottish folk songs and ballads journeyed to Appalachia and in this mountain range, they are still alive in their original form. There are Scottish songs there that don’t even exist in Scotland any more.”

The show is a joint enterprise between Anderson, co-creator of the acclaimed Islander, and director Tania Azevedo, currently resident director on & Juliet in the West End. It is about a woman beginning a new life in modern-day Brooklyn who, as she considers the possibility of motherhood, feels the urge to connect with her estranged family. Somewhere along the way, she has broken the link to a long line of ballad singers who left 17th century Stirling for 18th century Ulster and then headed west to the United States. [READ MORE]

By Mark Fisher

MARK FISHER is a freelance theatre critic and feature writer based in Edinburgh and has written about theatre in Scotland since the late-1980s. He is a theatre critic for The Guardian, a former editor of The List magazine and a frequent contributor to the Scotsman and other publications. He is the co-editor of the play anthology Made in Scotland (1995), and the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide (2012) and How to Write About Theatre (2015) – all Bloomsbury Methuen Drama. He is also the editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls and What Do You Call That Noise? An XTC Discovery Book (both Mark Fisher Ltd).