The Curious Case of Osgood Mackenzie

Aug 17 2023 | By More

★★★☆☆     Unusual staging

The Royal Scots Club (Venue 241): Tue 15 – Sat 19 Aug 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

The Curious Case of Osgood Mackenzie, from Arkle at the Royal Scots Club, is a well researched slice of Scottish history, presented in a way that has genuine novelty.

Written and directed by Rob Mackean, the play concerns Mackenzie (1842-1922), a scion of the Highland gentry who founded the picturesque and constantly surprising botanical gardens at Inverewe in the NorthWest of Scotland. The garden, however, is only an incidental part of this story, which deals with Mackenzie’s relationships with his mother Mary, his wife Minna and his daughter Mairi.

The Cast of The Curious Case of Osgood Mackenzie: Rae Lamond, Rob Mackean, Brian Neill, Alastair Smith and Hazel Eadie. Pic: Rob Mackean

Introduced as being by ‘the Arkle Radio Theatre Company’, the production is certainly set up as a radio play – it is performed script in hand, with the actors sitting or standing in a line, and a sound effects table set up for live Foley.

The format has a certain charm, even if it means there is not as much interaction between the characters as there might be. Although much of it consists of monologues rather than dialogue, and a great deal of it is rather dry exposition, the script is tightly structured and entertaining.

Mackean himself portrays the narrator figure of John Dixon with a wry twinkle; Mackenzie is played with a brusque bitterness masking complete emotional incapability to great effect by Brian Neill.

chillingly self-righteous

Hazel Eadie is chillingly self-righteous as the Dowager Lady Mary. Mackenzie’s treatment of his English wife was neglectful at best, emotionally abusive at worst, and Rae Lamond plays her with appropriate anger and an interestingly modern sensibility.

Eadie and Lamond additionally play some smaller roles, as does Alastair Smith, who supplies the inventive sound effects.

Mackean repeatedly places stress on not judging too harshly the morals of a vanished age, Mackenzie’s misogyny, or his bewilderment that hunting and shooting anything that moved on his estates could lead to a subsequent shortage of wildlife.

A little more bite might have helped, as a feeling of cosiness does tend to creep in during a story that may have been all too common in Victorian times but has some nasty moments. The lack of visual impact in the format does not help in this regard.

However, there is a real charm in the presentation and the unusual format means this is constantly involving.

Running time: 55 minutes (no interval)
The Royal Scots Club (Hepburn Suite), 29-31 Abercromby Place, EH3 6QE (Venue 241)
Tuesday 15 – Saturday 19 August 2023
Daily at 2.30 pm
Tickets and details: Book here.

Company website:

Facebook: @ArkleTheatreCompany 

Flyer image for The Curious Case of Osgood Mackenzie. Arkle



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