Robert Louis Stevenson
Adapted by Robert Paterson & Alasdair McCrone
Mull Theatre Company at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
One of the most difficult things about adapting a novel to the stage is getting in all the information an audience will need to follow the story while at the same time representing the action in a dramatic and enticing way. This is a challenge recently faced by blockbuster films Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, as well as the National Theatre's recent production of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials novels. In the case of Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson ensured that even those audience members who hadn't read Tolkein's novels would be able to follow what took place in his films.
Robert Paterson and Alasdair McCrone's script for Kidnapped manages to do this, but only barely. The writers seem to be trying to condense too much of the literal content of Stevenson's novel into the play, but one wishes that more emphasis had been put on the emotional core of the story, and less on minute details that ultimately undercut the production's ability to have an emotional effect on its audience. The single thread that seems to tie the story together is the relationship between young David Balfour (David Fitzgerald) and Alan Breck Stewart (Andrew Clark), and the script might have benefited from focusing on this relationship and adjusting parts of the story to highlight it earlier in the production.
The strength of this production rests in the performances given by several cast members. First among these is Clark, whose performance as the wild Highlander Alan Breck Stewart is magnetic. His first appearance takes place far too long after the beginning of the show, but his presence in act two makes the latter half of this epic bearable. John Langford, Alan McPherson, and Stephen Clyde each play a variety of roles, and stand out in at least one apiece.
But real credit for taking a dramatically dubious rendition of Stevenson's tale and gripping the audience's interest goes to composer and musician John Davidson. He is constantly on stage and plays the violin along to the action on screen; when he is given centre stage at the beginning of each act the audience can't help but be drawn into the story.
"Kidnapped" plays at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre until 31st July, 2004.
Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody