First published in The Times, Saturday November 4 2017
A first glance at the staging for Peter Arnott’s new adaptation of Compton Mackenzie’s novel may lead some in the audience to wonder if they have inadvertently stumbled upon Brigadoon. Ken Harrison, the designer, has garlanded his set with tartan. There are glimpses of heather-clad hills in the background and a soundtrack of bagpipes playing faintly overhead. The whole scene provokes the same frisson of resistance one feels walking past shop windows filled with shortbread and tinned haggis on the Royal Mile.
The question of how to dramatise Compton Mackenzie’s 1947 novel has inspired some ingenious adaptations down the years, including a live radio broadcast and a musical. This enjoyable new version, by Iain Finlay Macleod, gets round the problem of staging the wartime shipwreck that brings thousands of cases of whisky into the hands of a grateful island community by employing a framing device in which present-day inhabitants of the Hebridean island of Todday re-enact the legend for an Irish incomer.