So I didn’t really know what I was getting into. For anyone in the same boat, the story is about an American called Mac who works for a company called Knox Oil that want to buy over a small coastal village called Ferness on the west coast of Scotland for their firm.
What follows is the comic tale of Mac’s meetings with the village, his interaction with the quirky people who live there and his falling in love with both them and the location itself. Effectively he’s used - to great effect - as a vessel to explore and romanticise the everyday life of a small Scottish village, and we follow the growth of his character as the people of Ferness take one side or another in the debate over whether they should sell their town.
At the Lyceum Theatre, it was made into a musical.
Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame scored the music to the original hero, which, again, my mother and family insist is one of the best soundtracks ever. Family legend has it that the soundtrack was even playing while my brother was born, so it’s actually a bit bewildering that I’ve never seen the film. But anyway. The Lyceum got Knopfler back to score their production and it is a huge coup for the play. The music is standout sensational. It’s the accompaniment that really brings that authentic Scottish edge - that turns a brilliant script by original author Bill Forsyth and the Lyceum’s David Greig into a love letter to the west coast of Scotland.
This is especially true when paired with the staging of the stunning Scottish night sky, which, without spoilers, is fantastically pulled off. At times, it feels as though you’re there, and looking at it yourself.
It’s not all musical, there’s plenty talking in between, but the cast really do handle the transition fantastically. You’d think a bunch of small town Scottish characters chucked into what are at times, deliberately cliche-based musical numbers would turn out pretty cheesy, but with the characters themselves written as over the top comedians, dreamers, ambitious business men (however small town) and romantics, it doesn’t feel forced. Quite the opposite.
Katrina Bryan's voice is fantastic as the resistant Stella, and her character enviable, Damian Humbley's Mac is played to perfection as the conflicted businessman, Adam Pearce's Russian Viktor is particularly comical and Julian Forsyth's Ben is a real standout as the spanner in the works of the deal. Forsyth is so convincing as Ben that I wouldn’t be surprised if the man actually lived on a beach. Similarly, Matthew Pidgeon’s Gordon plays the counter to Stella with wit, humour and reliability. He’s deeply likeable and you sympathise with his position no matter how much you might disapprove of his line over the deal.
A real five out of five success from the Lyceum here, who have produced what is safely the best love letter to Scotland that we’ve seen on the stage in years.