Kidnapped: National Theatre of Scotland to turn classic Stevenson adventure into 'coming-of-age rom com'

A classic Robert Louis Stevenson adventure is to be turned into a “swashbuckling” musical love story by the National Theatre of Scotland (NTS).

It has revealed plans to turn the 19th-century novel, which is set in the aftermath of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, into a "coming-of-age rom com for today".

The new version of Kidnapped, which NTS promises will be a “riotous new retelling” of Stevenson’s much-loved story, will depict a romance between the two young protagonists Davie Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart as they travel through the Lowlands and Highlands of Scotland.

NTS said the "swashbuckling" new production of Stevenson's adventure, which was originally serialised in the children's magazine Young Folks in 1886, would see a live band perform a host of well-known songs, including denim-clad Americana, late ‘90s love songs, art rock, protest anthems, 80s synth-pop, Gaelic folk song and more."

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    Stevenson's wife Frances will also feature as a "spirit guide" in the production, which will tour Scotland and visit Newcastle in the spring after a premiere in Greenock.

    It is being adapted for the stage by Isobel McArthur and Michael John McCarthy, the writer and musical supervisor of a hit adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, which won a Olivier Award after launching at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow and the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh then transferring to London's West End.

    An official announcement from NTS stated: “Nineteen-year-old Davie Balfour has never left home, never been kissed and never fired a gun.

    "Armed with nothing, but a hand-drawn map, he heads off on an adventure like no other, quickly realising that he has a lot of catching up to do.

    Actor, director and playwright Isobel McArthur and musician, sound designer and composer Michael John McCarthy are leading the creation of the new stage version of Kidnapped for the National Theatre of Scotland.

    "The production follows Davie on a journey of eye-opening discovery as he navigates murderous foes, Jacobite outlaws and the most inept crew of pirates this side of the Atlantic.

    "This version of Kidnapped reframes the relationship between the central characters Davie Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart as a romance, which is played out through their adventures across the Lowlands and Highlands of a Scotland, still reeling from the aftermath of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion.”

    McArthur and McCarthy said: “In Kidnapped, there seemed to us to be more of Stevenson the man, his beliefs and experiences, than in any other of his works of fiction.

    "His deeply romantic view of being human, his attempts to hold onto a sense of innocence and wonder at the world, his lust for travel, his attraction to glamour and physical strength … they are all here.

    The National Theatre of Scotland has announced plans for a new version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure Kidnapped. Picture: Laurence Winram

    “Stevenson asks what it is to be Scottish, to be in in love, to be a grown-up – all through the telling of a historical tale, full of humour, heart and song. It’s a true adventure story – where body, heart and soul are put through their paces – to, by turns, thrilling, moving and humorous effect. We just couldn’t pass it up.”

    NTS artistic director Jackie Wylie said: “We’re thrilled to be bringing Isobel McArthur and Michael John McCarthy’s joyful version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic to stages in 2023.

    "It is important to us that audiences across Scotland and beyond will have the chance to jump on board with this life-affirming, musical romance that retells a brilliant Scottish adventure story with such fearless theatrical panache.”

    Nusician, sound designer and composer Michael John McCarthy and actor, director and playwright Isobel McArthur are leading the creation of the new stage version of Kidnapped for the National Theatre of Scotland. Picture: James Chapelard
    The National Theatre of Scotland has announced plans for a new version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure Kidnapped, which will go on tour in the spring. Picture: Laurence Winram