Robert Burns changes his tune as teachers write new Fringe show

Teachers Rod Grant and Martin Franssen. Photograph: Alistair Linford
Teachers Rod Grant and Martin Franssen. Photograph: Alistair Linford
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A headmaster is launching a musical based on the life of Robert Burns and starring some of Scotland’s brightest young singers at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Rod Grant, of Clifton Hall School, Edinburgh, has turned theatrical impresario and is hoping that putting on his self-penned show A Man’s A Man at the Fringe will act as a springboard to the big time.

Grant’s ambitious project has been developed with his co-writer Martin Franssen, another teacher at the school who has composed the music for the show, which will be performed by a professional cast.

A Man’s A Man takes the bold step of telling the national Bard’s life story through his poetry sung to new tunes rather than the traditional airs which are so familiar to most Scots.

It also showcases some of Burns’s more obscure works, as well as the better known verses that are usually heard at Burns Supper. Among the lesser known works put to music are “A Prayer in the Prospect of Death” and “A Mother’s Lament”.

Yesterday Grant, who has also written a novel based on the Ploughman Poet’s life, said his contribution to contemporary musical theatre was a “warts and all” portrayal of Burns.

Signed up to play two of the women in Burns’s life are Hannah Rarity and Claire Hastings.

Rarity is this year’s BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year, while Hastings won the same award in 2015. Rarity plays Jean Armour and Hastings is Nancy Macklehose (Clarinda).

Playing the poet is Kieran Bain, a promising actor with an operatic background who leads the 18-strong cast.

Grant said the singers were of “incredible quality”.

“I really think it is a fantastic show and the reason we are taking it into the Fringe this year is to try to get recognition for it.

“And what we are really hoping more than anything is that a producer will pick it up and run with it.”

Franssen, a primary teacher at the independent school, described himself as a self-taught musician.

He was part of the rock band The Fiances, which was part of the Scottish music scene during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Franssen admitted to being “trepidacious” about writing new music for Burns but said the response so far had been excellent.

A Man’s A Man runs from 1-14th August at C Venue, Chambers Street, Edinburgh