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The Monarch of the Glen

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars

Enough tartan tat to line Pitlochry high street carpets the stage like a badly furnished highland hotel at the opening of Peter Arnott's swish new stage adaptation of Compton Mackenzie's 1941 comic novel. A pantomime style stag looms on the horizon before a troupe of socialist hikers march onto land marked by 'No Trespassing' signs later used for firewood.

Welcome to Glenbogle, the crumbling pile overseen by Donald MacDonald of MacDonald, aka Ben Nevis, whose territorial claims on the land don't seem to apply when he and his partner in crime Kilwhillie are flogging it off to big-talking American developer, Chester Royde. Chester's trophy bride Carrie has her own vested interest, while her sister-in-law Myrtle is more inclined to colonise hunky nationalist poet, Alan, than nice-but-dim Hector. Tellingly, Alan sides with the tartan Tories to repel English boarders.

The symbolism is laid on with a Saltire-patterned trowel in Mackenzie's yarn, brought to life by Arnott in Richard Baron's production with a playful sense of its own ridiculousness. Mark Elstob's urbane butler may act as the show's de facto narrator, but as he and other performers double up as assorted hikers, sheep and other animals, it's as if they're trying on identities for size in the way a small nation in all its contrary sense of self might do. The show even manages to squeeze in a looped Adam and the Ants sample to help illustrate the eternal battle for Scotland's soul.

This all leaves plenty of room to roam for Baron's ten-strong cast, led by Benny Young as a stoic Ben Nevis and Grant O'Rourke as a bumbling Chester. It's the cross-generational alliance of Deirdre Davis' Trixie, Hannah Donaldson's Myrtle and Isobel McArthur's Carrie who run rings round the men-folk, however, in a deceptively feel-good take on self-determination and power.


The Herald, October 30th 2017

ends

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