By Roz Skinner
Who can resist a free glass of whisky integrated with riveting Gaelic theatre?
Novelist and playwright, Iain Finlay MacLeod, has penned an adaptation of Whisky Galore that combines the two - adult members of the audience will receive a small dram courtesy of Skye-based Pràban na Linne (The Gaelic Whiskies) during the interval of the play - which, as Iain Finlay says, "just makes sense!"
Whisky Galore will be touring across Scotland from April 10 to May 15 and will be coming to an Lanntair on Thursday April 30. Locations such as Oran Mor, Glasgow; Eriskay Community Hall; Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Skye; and Eden Court, Inverness will also feature talks from Raasay-based writer Roger Hutchinson, author of Polly: The True Story Behind Whisky Galore.
The idea to write the stage adaptation was presented to Iain Finlay by the National Theatre of Scotland. Iain Finlay, who is the National Theatre of Scotland's Associate Artist (Gaelic), says: "They have always tried to look at ways to find interesting source material and create fascinating work. They are doing a season of Scottish classic novels and adapting them for the stage. We thought this was a good fit, as it's a well-loved story."
Set in the present day, in a pub called The Cabinet Minister, the opening scene depicts a dull, listless week-night - suddenly punctuated by the arrival of a stranger! "The story is then retold by the characters that appear in the pub," Iain Finlay explains. "This gave me more leeway to write about topics relevant to today, rather than just a straight retelling."
The play will be performed by five actors, including M.J. Deans, Julie Hale, Roseanne Lynch, Calum MacDonald and Iain Macrae. Harris-born Iain Macrae was delighted to be asked by the National Theatre of Scotland to take part in a story that he had grown up with. Mr Macrae says: "Whisky Galore remains one of my top favourite films of all time, and so I was very excited to be asked to act in the play!"
Mr Macrae has worked at an Lanntair many times - including acting in the first play ever put on at the venue. Coincidentally, that play, I Was A Beautiful Day, was also penned by Iain Finlay Macleod. Mr Macrae says: "I am thrilled to be coming back to a venue that holds a very special place in my heart."
Iain Finlay admits before he started rewriting the play, he had never read Compton Mackenzie's novel. "I'd only seen the film," he explains. "It was interesting to compare the two and see what differences there were. The novel is very charming, but the ship runs aground halfway through. It's much more about the community and lots of related stories and character vignettes. I went back to the novel and I took out of it what I thought was interesting."
As Iain Finlay says, "You would never believe the story unless you knew it had actually happened! A ship full of whisky running aground over the West Coast... It was interesting to get into the actuality of the story as well as Compton Mackenzie's version."
Whisky Galore will be the first play produced by recently-launched, Lewis-based Gaelic theatre company, Robhanis. Explains Iain Finlay: "There was a need for a professional theatre company in the language. It's important to tell our stories from our own point of view in our own language." The production is performed almost entirely in Gaelic, with English subtitles.
So if you fancy a modern twist on Compton Mackenzie's classic story (and a delicious dram!), why not come to an Lanntair on Thursday, 30th April? To find out more, visit the an Lanntair website -
You can also see Whisky Galore at Castlebay Community Hall, Barra on Friday 24th, Eriskay Community Hall on Saturday 25th, Carinish Village Hall, North Uist on Monday 27th and Leverburgh Village Hall, Isle of Harris on Wednesday 29th, as well as other locations throughout Scotland. To find out more, go to