Explosive love scandal of philosopher David Hume and Nancy Ord is on song

Kelly Burke
Kelly Burke
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SERENDIPITY, you might say, lay at the heart of local playwright David Black’s 2016 production of Nancy’s Philosopher, his play about the doomed relationship of the great David Hume and society beauty Nancy Ord.

At the time, everything was in place ahead of the arrival of award winning actress Kelly Burke, who would star in the piece, everything that is except her footwear.

Despite searching high and low, Black had been unable to source the right 18th century look required for the role.

Which is where serendipity played its hand. In a quandary about the illusive footwear Black was convinced he had drawn a blank when, one fateful day, he boarded a No 23 bus and found himself sitting beside a female wearing soft leather high lacing boots. Exactly the style he had been looking for, they were perfect.

Not many women would have made sense of his opening remark, however; “You’re not a shoe size 6 by any chance, are you?”, he asked.

It turned out his fellow passenger was harpist and composer Phamie Gow and she was intrigued by his unorthodox opening line.

“I never got hold of her boots” recalls Black, “but we became friends, and she was so taken with the story of David Hume and Nancy Ord that she wrote Nancy’s Song. It was an absolute knockout.”

Thirteen years on, Nancy’s Song will be sung at the Summerhall Anatomy Theatre on Saturday 12 January in a special preview.

The forgotten story of the doomed relationship between Hume and Ord was first performed at Summerhall during the 2016 Fringe and would prove to be the swansong of renowned Scottish actor and director Andrew Dallmeyer.

When Scottish Enlightenment philosopher Hume and Ord, daughter of the Chief Baron of the Scottish Exchequer, fell in love, the result was an explosive scandal and a doomed relationship.

This new production, directed by the award-winning Peta Lily, finds Burke returning to the role of Nancy, which was written for her.

Back at Summerhall for a limited run from this evening until Monday 14 January, Saturday’s performance will also feature an exclusive preview of an aria from Gow’s forthcoming mini-opera based on the play.

Nancy’s Philosopher, Sumerhall, Anatomy Lecture Theatre, 10-14 January (not 12), 7.30pm, £15 (£12), Saturday 12 January, 6pm, £20 (£15), suitable age 12+ under 18s must be accompanied, 0131-560 1580