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Author, Composer, Soldier-of-a-Sort review at Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh – ‘delicate and moving piece of storytelling’

Jan Carey in Author, Composer, Soldier-of-a-Sort. Photo: Kim Hardy Jan Carey in Author, Composer, Soldier-of-a-Sort. Photo: Kim Hardy

Ivor B. Gurney was born in 1890 and joined the Royal College of Music in 1911. Like his fellow Gloucestershire-native, Laurie Lee, Gurney’s lack of wealth didn’t prohibit him leaving a tender and remarkable artistic legacy.

Author, Composer, Soldier-of-a-Sort by Jan Carey concentrates on the long-running friendship between Gurney and Marion M. Scott, a composer, musicologist and critic.

In one way, this story seems like the archetypical ‘unlikely friendship’. But they actually shared a considerable amount in common, not least in defying assumptions (Gurney as a lower-class man and Scott as a woman) in translating their love of music into a career.

Carey performs both roles with measured sophistication. One of many masterstrokes lies in performing Gurney’s Gloucester accent as soft and bubbling – like stream water over pebbles – not in the harsh, comedy West Country way most people on stage seem to opt for.

Interspersed with passages of Gurney’s music, the monologue is a delicate and very moving piece of storytelling. In one painfully beautiful scene, Gurney – now confined to a London institution post-WWI – is visited by Helen Thomas, wife of the poet Edward Thomas. Together, they trace the lanes of Gloucestershire on an Ordnance Survey Map: it’s heart-breaking.

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A loving tribute to a friendship based on a shared love of poetry and music