There are three things you can guarantee with work from the brilliant Isobel McArthur: hilarity, irreverence and pop culture references.
So her take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale of derring-do, adapted with composer Michael John McCarthy and co-directed with Gareth Nicholls, provides all of these facets and more. There’s clearly affection for the original source material, even as it plays with the tropes of Scottish heritage and rom-coms alike.
The absurdism, always bubbling to the surface but never engulfing the production, may feel more like Absolutely ‘s sketch ‘Stoneybridge’ than Stonehaven, but there’s a richness to her script, and she’s not ashamed to go deep into character development and sub-text.
Davie Balfour (a glorious, versatile Ryan J Mackay) the gauche young hero, is catapulted into a glamorous, swashbuckling adventure, where he learns to be strong and resourceful, and feels his oats. He teams up with his polar opposite, dashing Jacobite Alan Breck Stewart, played with equal parts roguish charm and sweetness by Malcolm Cumming.
The singing ensemble, including Grant O’Rourke, Danielle Jam and David Rankine, swap roles and play retro pop hits like ‘Only You’, ‘The Gambler’, ‘A Little Respect ‘ and a Gaelic spin on ‘Road to Nowhere ‘ beautifully.
Running parallel to all of this is Kim Ismay as Frances, Robert Louis Stevenson’s outspoken American wife, whose narration about her burgeoning romance with the writer provides an extra layer of poignancy amid all of the energetic capers. Meanwhile, the witty, movable set from Anna Orton keeps the action rolling and provides some brilliant sight gags.
You may need a swift half or two at The Bam and Anchor afterwards, but this adaptation proves you can make a show that’s populist, funny and really rather moving. Slàinte mhath!