Whisky Galore

Aug 8 2023 | By More

★★★★☆      Classic comedy

Mayfield Salisbury Church (Venue 11): Fri 4 – Sat 19 Aug 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

Edinburgh People’s Theatre, 80 years young and regulars at the Fringe since Methuselah was a boy, return to one of their greatest hits in style with a production of Whisky Galore at Mayfield Salisbury Church.

Compton Mackenzie’s evergreen 1947 novel was adapted by James Scotland and first performed by EPT in 1966, to Mackenzie’s approval. There is little chance that anyone putting a famous novel on stage nowadays would use the three-act structure; even less chance that they would leave the story’s most famous element (the grounding of the SS Cabinet Minister, with its cargo of whisky, on the malt-starved isles of Todday) to halfway through Act 2.

Calum Philp, Ellie Cannon, John Warren and John Webster in EPT’s Whisky Galore. PIc Terry Railley

Some other elements are not as dated as might be expected. The stereotypical portrayal of simple yet sneaky Islanders with their couthie ways remains as popular as ever, and is as true to life now as it was then (in other words, not at all). Some other strands – Sabbatarianism, the sectarian divide – are more relevant today than many would have hoped.

The adaptation juggles the huge cast of characters with real skill, making good use of a narrator figure in Duncan Ban Macroon, played with an inviting twinkle and real comic nous by Ronnie Millar. And it is a huge cast – nineteen-strong, with three doubling up in second roles – to the extent that they hardly fit on stage for the closing bows.

beautifully paced

Director Anne McKenzie marshals this veritable army with skill and not a little flair. The result is beautifully paced, never drags and is full of laughter.

The ensemble is packed with beautifully judged performances – John Webster’s conniving postmaster, and Jaeden Reppert and David McBeath’s gloriously expansive comic double act score highly for humour, with all three showing great command of that surprisingly difficult skill of acting drunk.

Ronnie Millar, David McBeath, John Webster and Jaeden Reppert in EPT’s Whisky Galore. PIc: Terry Railley

Graham Bell’s blustering Home Guard Captain Waggett (‘from Bolton or Birmingham or one of those places’) is another beautifully timed comic performance, with Pat Johnson providing sterling support as his wife. Lee Ian Moffat’s perennially disappointed publican and Kevin Edie’s hapless ‘undercover’ army officer also provide loads of fun, as do John Warren and Lynn Cameron in double roles. Morag Black, Gillian Scott and David Purdon also provide laughs in smaller roles.

Calum Philp, Ellie Cannon, Allan Munro and Kelly Edie impress as the two pairs of young lovers who find obstacles in their way. Special mention also to Jess Howie as young Ailsa, whose appearances boast excellent timing.

Possibly the highlight is Lyzzie Dell’s monstrous Mrs Campbell. Anyone who has ever spent any time in Scotland will find her Holy Wilhelmina act horribly familiar as well as hugely funny.

good humour and craft

Extreme care has gone into every aspect of the production – the sturdy set, Steve Roberts’s lighting, Peter Horsfall’s sound, Carol Caldwell’s costumes. Inventive use is made of the auditorium and there is even some dancing. Aside from the occasional (forgivably) wandering accent among a large number of commendable ones, there is little that does not feel thoroughly secure.

Some may baulk at the Scottish clichés on display, but fun is poked equally – even at the English. In the end the good humour and craft win the day in what is a thoroughly enjoyable production.

Running time: Two hours and 40 minutes (including a 15 minute interval and a 5 minute pause)
Mayfield Salisbury Church (Church Hall), 18 West Mayfield, EH9 1TQ (Venue 11)
Friday 4 – Saturday 19 August 2023
Mon – Fri at 7.30 pm; Sat at 2.30 pm
Tickets and details: Book here.

EPT Links

Company website: https://www.ept.org.uk

Twitter @EPeoplesTheatre
Facebook: @EdinburghPeoplesTheatre
Instagram: @epeoplestheatre

Graham Bell, Lee Ian Moffat, Pat Johnson, Morag Black, Ronnie Millar, John Warren, Jaeden Reppert, Lynn Cameron, John Webster and Kelly Edie in EPT’s Whisky Galore. PIc: Terry Railley



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Comments (1)

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  1. Irene Beaver says:

    That’s a lovely review, Hugh. I’m going back for a second helping next week.

  2. Glyn Dodson says:

    A superb gentle comedy, beautifully acted. Really impressed with the range of accents and characters portrayed. From the young lovers to the battle axe of Mrs Campbell the cast weave a delightful tale.