“Be yourself, and others will find you”
This stage show, shown at this year’s Edinburgh Festival was the story of Horse’s life. Born Sheena McDonald (the Sh-he-na part she hated), in one of Scotland’s market towns.
And as a fellow Lanarkian, the feeling of the town felt very familiar, but while I might have experienced the usual teenage angst, Horse’s experiences growing up were very different.
First of all the name that she hated. She decided she was going to be called Horse, she identified with those lovely majestic animals, and she knew in her heart she was different from the other girls, as she struggled with her sexuality, feeling misplaced in the world.
The set was minimal but effective. Two chairs on stage – representing her home life – one for mum and one for dad – both empty. Her parents, Vicky and Dugald, both passed within six months of each other, leaving Horse bereft. The experience somehow cemented even more firmly her compassion and ability to connect and empathise with other people.
During her show we hear about the simple things, and the things you remember growing up. We hear tales of her mum and dad and how they would sit in their chairs, drink tea and eat Rich Tea biscuits.
We hear about the angst of growing up in a small town where Horse stood out, was subjected to bullying and the odd advice from a lady on a train who tells her of a doctor she could go to to “help” sort out her problems.
There’s lots of laughter too among the tears, as Horse talks of her two tone loons “as experimental as it gets in Lanark” and having to go to the school disco in her mum’s Paisley patterned shirt.
But there’s an escape and a sanctuary which Horse finds in music. Oddly not realising at first the gift she was born with. But then success comes as she appears on The Tube, gets the record deal and is asked to perform at the Stonewall gig at the Albert Hall.
There are still dark periods though – the operation for vocal nodes and the agonising wait as she fears she won’t be able to sing again.
And then we somehow come full circle. Horse meets her soulmate Alanna. she returns to her birthplace to marry, and she attends the equal marriage vote at the Scottish Parliament on 4th February 2014. And we feel a lovely sense of love, acceptance and peace.
This was a heartfelt and soul-baring play, delivered bravely by Horse, beautifully written by Lynn Ferguson and expertly directed by Maggie Kinloch.
While I know Horse and the town she grew up in, what would the couple from California I got talking to in the queue make of her? They visit Edinburgh every year and stay for the duration of the Festival, packing in as much as they can. They knew nothing about Horse, stumbled upon the play and decided to give it a go.
I met them afterwards. They were enthusiastic and moved to tears. The lady was desperate to get her hands on a Horse CD and loved the song Careful – which Horse sang and referenced throughout the show. I caught Horse’s play on the first night, and if this was anything to go by, all those festival goers who stumble upon shows will have felt like they discovered a little Edinburgh Festival gem.
Horse is now back at the “day job” and getting ready for a tour in November and word is that she’s going to be touring Careful next year.
Meanwhile catch her at: