Edinburgh 2013: Sadie & the Hotheads - Elizabeth McGovern's musical turn is a far cry from Lady Cora


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The Independent Culture

“We try to be cool,” Elizabeth McGovern tells us with the languid sigh so beloved of jazz bar crooners the world over, “but I haven't been up this late in 30 years.”

The actress and singer is better-known in the former role, chiefly as Cora, Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey and memorably opposite Robert De Niro in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America, but this musical project has the air of a real labour of love.

A selection of country and lounge-toned ballads and quirkily upbeat numbers, it’s at once a delightfully relaxing show and maybe a bit too somnambulant for the near-midnight hour at which it’s been programmed. Her five-piece band are all excellent and McGovern’s own naturally delicate tones are unselfishly bolstered by the presence of a backing singer who hits the more resounding power notes.

She tries on different styles like dresses, from the jokily flirty country of "One Thing Leads to Another" to the Irish mandolin and tin whistle balladry of love song "All the Time" (affectionately dedicated to her husband, the British director Simon Curtis) and the upbeat and danceable "How Not to Lose Things". She is an engaging singer and a songwriter of distinctive ability ("My Debt Collector" is a love song for a bailiff: “The attention I get from you's the most I've ever had”), and for the most part she avoids the actor-turned-singer’s trap of confusing which type of performance she is giving.

To 25 August (0131 220 0143)