ComedyDramaNorth WestReview

Whisky Galore – Oldham Coliseum Theatre, Oldham

Writer: Compton Mackenzie

Adaptor: Philip Goulding

Director: Kevin Shaw

Reviewer: Donna Kelly

As Britain marks 100 years since women first gained the right to vote, Oldham Coliseum Theatre, Hull Truck Theatre and New Vic Theatre present a brand new, all-female adaptation of Compton Mackenzie’s comedy classic Whisky Galore.

Set in 1955, Whiskey Galore tells the story of the islanders of Great and Little Todday who are dismayed to find their whisky supply dwindling as the UK government diverts the precious stuff to the Americans. When a 50,000 bottle cargo shipwrecks close by, welcome relief seems to be at hand until stuffy Paul Waggot of the Home Guard takes it upon himself to prevent the thirsty islanders from taking advantage of their good fortune. 

Philip Goulding’s adaption sees the combination of two real-life events: the true story behind Whiskey Galore and the story of the Osiris Players, a troupe of female actors who toured the British Isles from 1927 to 1963. Under the direction of Kevin Shaw, seven women play a total of 26 characters in the play-within-a-play to deliver the Scottish comedy classic as you’ve never seen it before.

Those familiar with the story of Whisky Galore will know that there is more to the story than initially meets the eye. At its heart is a tale of two communities rallying together to defy pompous authority and to indulge in one of life’s small pleasures – a wee dram of whiskey.

But this is also a story that hasn’t really moved with the times. While the introduction of the Pallas Players certainly adds a new dimension to the story, Whiskey Galore ultimately falls short of being laugh-out-loud funny. Much of the characters and the comedy feel dated and the only real fun to be had is in the slapstick physicality of the cast, who do their best with the rather weak plot and the somewhat wordy script.

That said, the Pallas Players are a joy to watch and the nature of Goulding’s production means that all of the actors get their chance to shine. The production also captures the absurdity of Mackenzie’s original story and retains its joyful sense of mischief.

Runs until Saturday 7 April 2018 | Image: Joel Chester Fildes

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The Reviews Hub Score

A wee dram of comedy

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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