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Horse McDonald in Careful review at Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh – ‘charming and insightful’

Horse McDonald Horse McDonald
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Soft and strong is how Horse McDonald describes the animals after which she named herself as a teenager. As she opens this autobiographical monologue (including the occasional song), her old name – the one she was christened with – comes out of her mouth with a snort and whinny, a repulsive nomenclature of something she never was.

But it is the hard bits of her life that McDonald remembers. The hard facts of growing up gay in Lanark in the 1970s. The mysterious man who inveigled her into a close when she was eight and stole her money; the bullies who followed her and the girl she could never call her girlfriend; the attempted coercions to take electroconvulsive therapy and reassignment therapy; and the abuses of patient confidentiality by those who “knew” they were right.

She tells all this with an open, sometimes faltering, honesty. It’s a performance of such naivety that it overcomes any tendency to melodrama or sensationalism that is inherent in Lynn Ferguson’s text. Or, indeed, Maggie Kinloch’s occasionally tearjerking direction and staging.

Instead, McDonald reaches deep to find a piece of living history that speaks directly and with life-affirming clarity. There is enough about her music for her fans, but it speaks much more widely than that.

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Timely account of growing up gay in 1970s Scotland has insight and charm