Herald Review 2014

Neil Cooper Herald 2014

When American wheeler-dealer Ben Munro attempts to buy up the final dregs of the rarest whisky in the world, things don’t quite go according to plan. So it goes in Euan Martin, Dave Smith and composer James Bryce’s rollicking musical play, in which the Glenigma malt becomes a symbol both of the absurdities of global capitalism and of the life-force of a rural community struggling for economic survival.

Of course, John Durnin’s big, showbiz-styled production is a whole lot more fun than that, but such underlying political motifs are what drives this revival of a show first seen in 2010 following its development from the Highland Quest competition to find a new Scottish musical.

With distillery heiress Mary forced to sell off the last bottle of Glenigma to the highest bidder, the auction also attracts a Japanese collector, setting up an east-west conflict that captures the attention of the Scottish Government. With an export ban imposed on proceedings, the theme-parking of the village’s heritage seems to be the only way out. The metaphors aren’t difficult to spot in this rousingly optimistic affair, which also features a gay love story sub-plot and a valuable lesson on the real roots of country music.

Durnin’s fabulously well-drilled ensemble led by Dougal Lee as Ben and Mairi Morrison as Mary are in fine voice as the action zips between town and country on Ken Harrrison’s fluid set.

With all the actors contributing to Jon Beales’s big-band arrangements of Bryce’s score, Morrison’s Gaelic solo in particular is thrilling to hear in a gloriously idealistic toast to the power of community in an increasingly cut-throat world.