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Pinkie Goes on Stage ... with the English Duke himself as audience!

This was a special performance for the 19th Duke of Somerset, welcomed to the county by the Provost of East Lothian and Arran Johnston for the Battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trust

It was one of those propitious moments really. Theatre students led by tutor Irvine Allan at Queen Margaret University had created a play telling of the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh at the same time as Prestonpans was inviting the English commander's descendant, the 19th Duke of Somerset, to come to the county and help launch a new book - Blood Stain'd Fields by Arran Johnston telling of all the county's battles since before the Romans. So it was only natural that the cast be invited along to The Prestoungrange Gothenburg on Sunday April 28th to give an extra performance. The Vice Chancellor of Queen Margaret Univeristy, Petra Wend, a good friend of the Arts Festival already, also took the opportunity to see the work of her more theatrical colleagues.

The photographs throughout give just a little flavour of how it all transpired ... taken by Tony Marsh for the Battle Trust

The play opened with The Narrator's summary of the turbulent politics which had led to the Rough Wooing. Then, with effective scene changes and atmospheric lighting, we were transported to the court of Mary of Guise, whilst she and the Earl of Arran debated their response to the threat of an English invasion.

In contrast to the high politics they discussed, the following scenes explored the impact of the call-to-arms on ordinary families both sides of the border: a son's patriotic fervour was ill-matched by the desperate realism of the father as they were forced to war.

The two armies faced each other at Pinkie, and the chivalrous Earl of Huntly attempted to persuade the Duke of Somerset to settle the matter with single combat, or else a combat of champions. Alas, the negotiations came to naught and the battle began.

Flashing lights and the sounds of cannon cut across the stage as the Scots army struggled to advance. Despite Arran's pleading, his pike formations began to break.

After the battle, Somerset and one of his aides stood amongst the dead and philosophised on the nature of war and its grizzly necessities. Back at a Scottish homestead, to moving music by some of the players, the wilful son returned home bearing the sword of his lost father. As a final scene, two wounded and exhausted enemy soldiers fought desperately with one another on the blood-soaked field, whilst they attempted to persuade one another of the justice of their cause.

The mixture of light-hearted humour and thought-provoking poignancy ensured that the production was thoroughly enjoyed by those who were present. After a warm applause and a few words of thanks, today's Duke joined the cast for a photocall and one and all relaxed with the guests over a splendid supper!

Published Date: May 2nd 2013

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