City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Uisge-Beatha Gu Leòr (Whisky Galore), Oran Mór, Review

By Irene Brown - Posted on 13 April 2015

Whisky Galore prod 2 credit Drew Farrell.jpg
Show Details
National Theatre of Scotland (NTS) and Robhanis Theatar
Compton MacKenzie (writer), Iain Finlay Macleod (adapter), Guy Hollands (director), Claire Halleran (set design), Paul Claydon (lighting design), Alasdair Gray (composer)
MJ Deans, Julie Hale, Roseanne Lynch, Calum Macdonald, Iain Macrae
Running time: 

Watching a play that’s performed in a language that’s neither spoken nor understood by the average audience member involves a level of concentration not required when a lingua franca is used. The situation applies normally to foreign texts, especially in films but it would be strange to call Gaelic, a native tongue of Scotland ‘foreign’ even although it is neither spoken nor understood by many Scots. Any trepidation that the virtually total use of Gaelic with only occasional English and a smidgin of Scots might be a hindrance to enjoyment of this gloriously comic linguistic repossession is instantly vanished.

From the strict tempo sound of Scottish Country dance music that sets the tone at the start through to the ‘50s Genevieve style film score to Stayin Alive with its unforgettable dance routine, music plays an enormous part throughout this 50 minute,terrifically directed gem.

The original novel written in English by Sir Compton MacKenzie was based on the true story of the S.S Politician being wrecked on the Hebridean island of Eriskay. This adaptation is set on the present day island of Todday. In the weary wee local called The Cabinet Minister - all baccy stained walls; beer stained upholstered stools; auld lived in axminster - a young Irish backpacker appears in search of her Scottish Gaelic roots. Her presence and the coincidental absence of whisky are catalysts to some reminiscing from locals that result in a joyous play within a play.

This smart re-enacting that echoes the past through the prism of the present to great effect is anti- metropolitan but not at all couthie. Like Compton MacKenzie’s story it manages, thanks to the dialogue that is steeped in Macleod’s dry humour, to spread the mickey taking universally. Julie Hale and Iain Macrae’s take on a pandrop sucking church service and an endless Sabbath as the clock ticks to midnight when the SS Cabinet Minister can be searched for “grapefruits” is sheer comic pleasure.

MJ Deans inhabits the role of the seemingly hard faced barmaid Sarah with believable ease and the versatile 5 strong cast take on an impressive array of roles, impersonations, voices and accents through the playing out of the old story. But Iain Macrae as Duncan leads the field with his upper crust Major Quiblick “wobbing the wevenue”, the Aiberdonian exciseman crying “foo’s yer doos” and the cringing, hand wringing Mr Macroon – all done with aplomb and a few hats!

The play has been adapted by Iain Finlay Macleod whose aim has been “…[to revisit] stories which belong to the Gaelic culture but which have never been told in the language…” Macleod has managed this task with utter panache and should have no fear of his mother’s warning that his take on Whisky Galore “…had better be good!” It is – with pub and ship bells on! More than one knot is tied in this celebratory recapturing of a misplaced classic. Sonas indeed!

Uisge-Beatha Gu Leòr will be performed almost entirely in Gaelic, with English surtitles for non -Gaelic -speaking audiences. The production is the result of work done in a Gaelic reading group organised by NTS and marks the launch of Robhanis, the new Lewis based Gaelic language theatre company.

A Play, a Pie and a Pint at Oran Mor, Glasgow
Monday 13th – Sat 18th April 2015, 1.00pm (doors 12.00pm)
Adult audience members will be offered a dram courtesy of Skye company Praban na Linne – The Gaelic Whiskies as part of the evening’s or lunchtime’s entertainment.
Tour continues (see article Whisky Galore - Uisge-Beatha Gu Leòr touring Scotland in Spring 2015).