Theatre review: Whisky Galore
The National Theatre of Scotland brings the traditional Ealing comedy to a contemporary audience
Compton MacKenzie's novel Whisky Galore, made into an Ealing Comedy only two years after its publication in 1947, is either a charming slice of British playfulness, or a dated parody of the Scottish obsession with alcohol: the characters take on the most simplistic qualities of the highlander, all patriarchal fathers, small-minded rurals or desperate alcoholics.
Yet Iain Finlay MacLeod's witty script adapts the action for a small cast. Set in a pub years after the time that a ship ran aground with a cargo of whisky, it becomes a folk-tale, told with verve and humour by the locals for a visitor – who turns out to be the granddaughter of the film's romantic leads.
The cast are superb, switching between roles and capturing the absurdity of the film's story. Despite the clever trick of setting the story in the modern day, and turning it into a tale-within-a-tale, the romance of the source is not lost as the locals finds their lives are entwined with the drama of the film.
Although – at under an hour – the play carries its intelligence lightly, the jumps between Gaelic and English are well managed, and Guy Hollands’ direction is swift and precise. It’s a fun attempt to reclaim the very British tradition of the Ealing comedy for a contemporary Scotland that suggests how the past informs the present, by becoming a myth that retains a resonance.