JUST as the temperatures soar and the Engerland team is still in the world cup, pubs are running out of beer – so audiences as the touring production of Whisky Galore will understand even more keenly the anguish felt by Todday islanders when the whisky ran out in 1941.
It was at that time that companies of touring players, all female, criss-crossed the country putting on plays for audiences in small towns. And the Oldham Coliseum, Hull Truck and New Vic’s tour, at Salisbury Playhouse until 30th June, pays tribute to those troupes.
Under the guise of the Pallas Players, led by the redoubtable Flora Bellerby, they are performing Philip Goulding’s adaptation of Compton Mackenzie’s 1947 novel, famous as an Ealing Comedy in 1949 and remade on film in 2016.
The cast of seven, all playing a large variety of roles, unfolds the story of a shipwreck off the islands (based on the true story of the SS Politician). A British soldier wants to marry an island girl. A shy schoolteacher needs to break his tyrannical mother’s hold to marry the girl of his dreams. The publican’s daughter is in love …
But the real passion is whisky, and when it transpires that the wrecked boat has a cargo of the hard stuff, bound for America, and the bumbling of the army, coastguard, excise and home guard means that it will be there, ready and waiting for those in small boats to ease its burden, it’s every man and woman for him/her self.
Designer Patrick Connellan has created deceptively simple props and doubled-up costumes for this often-hilarious post-Farndales romp. Every member of the versatile cast grabs the chance to shine.
Shuna Snow (daughter of Peter, half-sister of Dan) is lucky enough to have a voice deep enough to convince, as both Limey soldier Fred and the crusty, lusty Maj Quiblick.
Isabel Ford’s Paul Waggett is a masterpiece of pomposity, doubled with the voluptuous barmaid Annag (also played at times by almost every member of the company!)
Christine Mackie makes as convincing a medical charmer (Dr Maclaren) as frosty ancient parent, Mrs Campbell.
With Sally Armstrong as director, narrator and four characters, Lila Clements as the anguished George (+5), Alicia McKenzie as newcomer Juliet (for whom excuses don’t need to be made!), and Joey Parsad as Doris, this is a cast having fun at the same time as entertaining their audiences royally.
It’s a charming romp, in the good old English summer tradition.