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Theatre Review: The Monarch of the Glen ****

Joy Watters reviews a production that 'fits the theatre in the hills like a glove'.

Pitlochry’s specially commissioned version of the 1941 classic Highland novel fits the theatre in the hills like a glove. It’s as if the rich seam of comedy in Compton Mackenzie’s social and cultural commentary was just waiting to be mined for the stage and Peter Arnott has done it proud with his adaptation.

Arnott is not the only one celebrating Mackenzie’s comic genius, director Richard Baron and a top notch cast affectionately lampoon the characters that venture into the Highlands and the Glen Bogle estate one summer.

It may be set in the 1930s but there’s a familiar feel to some of the visitors, such as the rich arrogant American who is hell-bent on opening golf courses. Glen Bogle’s laird, commonly known as Ben Nevis, and his impoverished landowner chum hope to make a fast buck out of the American.

Meanwhile a bunch of lefty English walkers who rip down the estate’s Keep Out signs land themselves in deep trouble. Add in a kilted yoga-loving Scot Nat for some political joshing and romance. It’s all great comedy with a political edge.

Part of the fun is the excellent cast of ten taking on various roles, from humans to sheep. Mark Elstob effortlessly ranges from wry narrator to smoothie butler and steely militaristic walkers’ leader. Benny Young’s Laird is seemingly vague and removed but with an eye on the main chance, while Grant O’Rourke gives an expansive reading to American Chester Royde.

The staging of the various events, from dances, grouse shooting to deer stalking and highland games, is a hoot; Baron excels at this kind of thing. Get your tickets quickly.

Runs at Pitlochry Festival Theatre until November 12.

Tags: theatre

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