Review: Kidnapped, Brunton Theatre

Alan Steele and Scott Hoatson
Alan Steele and Scott Hoatson
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Adapting a classic novel for the stage can’t be easy at the best of times, but when the plot involves deeds of derring-do, a shipwreck and a marathon chase through the Highland wilds, it must present a fair old test for those involved.

****

It’s a challenge that Cumbernauld Theatre Company have embraced wholeheartedly though, succeeding with a stirring retelling of Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson’s legendary tale of deceit, treachery and friendship.

Director Ed Robson’s story remains largely true to the original, with much of Stevenson’s glorious prose and turn of phrase surviving intact. That means it can get a bit wordy on occasion, but the onstage trio cope well, balancing the frenetic physical action with the florid language.

Playing the infamous Alan Breck Stewart, Peter Callaghan captures perfectly the essence of the vainglorious, proud yet eminently likable outlaw. Scott Hoatson shines as the main protagonist, the naive but honourable Davie Balfour, while Alan Steele excels as his conniving uncle Ebenezer.

Between them, Callaghan and Steele also play the secondary characters, adding firm flesh to their bones and all three take turns to narrate, cleverly weaving each other’s lines and moves into one coherent thread. It’s a tactic that carries over into the staging too, the actors subtly fashioning many of the sound and visual effects right there on stage, without ever detracting from the action at hand.

That impressive stagecraft and some nifty, creative production ideas keep things roaring along, although the pacing of the second act stumbles a little, due to an overly-long lament and an over-reliance on a video camera gimmick. That said, they’re both small gripes, and there’s plenty more here that will last much longer in the memory.

Perhaps most impressive is that the show does well to tease out the historical backdrop, paying testament to its importance without overloading the audience with too many names, places or dates. It all makes for a thrilling evening’s entertainment and one that’ll inspire those unfamiliar with the Jacobite Rebellion and its legacy to explore the legends and myths for themselves.

Run ends Friday 4 May