As The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh prepares to stage the world premiere of a major new production of Local Hero, we take a look back at seven classic moments from the film that pitted the ambitions of American oil multinational against the ways of a beautiful Highland village.
It’s never locked
On the road all night and with an injured rabbit in tow, it is at first an uncertain welcome for the oil executive Mac and his colleague Oldsen at the MacAskill Arms - not least because they appear to have interrupted the bedroom time of amorous landlord Gordon Urquhart. The encounter is smoothed, however, when Urquhart appears downstairs in his dressing gown to declare the door “is never locked” before inviting the pair in. He asks the pair to help themselves to coffee and toast – and lettuce for the rabbit – before disappearing back upstairs to finish his business. It is a rare welcome, indeed.
Could you imagine a world without oil?
The two worlds of multinational oil business and beautiful Highland idyll are soon set against each other as Mac and Oldsen get some fresh air on the beach. The pair are unable to shake their city pace as they power over the sands in their suits and ties as the sun goes down over the bay. As the sky is slowly stained pink and purple by the disappearing day and the water sits calm and restful, the pair charge along declaring how woeful a world without oil would be. No automobiles, no nylon, no detergents, perspex, polythene or dry cleaning fluids. Thankfully, the scenery effortlessly drowns out their patter.
Mac is a telex man who can proudly seal a deal anywhere in the world within an hour given advances in data transmission. Yet here he finds himself in the village’s now iconic red phonebox calling Houston, pumping a fistful of 10 pence pieces against the pips after the locals staged a whipround for coins. Finally, after connecting thousands of miles away to the frantic nerve centre of the US oil business, his life is reduced to the micro when he tells his colleague to write down the number: Ferness 261. Mac reflects with his colleague that he has only been away for two days: “It feels longer to me …I feel like I have been here forever.”
Casserole du lapin
Farce descends at the dinner table at the MacAskill Arms when it emerges rabbit stew has been served. With the bistro muzak at full pelt, the slow realisation that Mac and Oldson are actually eating their rescue bunny leads to despair at the table with the upset soothed by flirtatious Stella, the landlord’s partner.
Mac collects shells at the beach
As Mac gets to work on Ferness, Ferness gets to work on Mac. Soon enough he is rolling up his work trousers and kicking off his shoes to search for shells in the rockpools. Before long, his digital watch – his lifeline to Houston – is washed away in the water and he later disappears to carefully clean his new shell collection with a toothbrush. The tide is starting to turn on Mac’s mission to buy up the village.
You can’t eat scenery
The final details of the deal to buy Ferness are ironed out in the kitchen of the village hall as the Friday night ceilidh gets underway. Millions of pounds are discussed among scones and teas in the kitchen. The party really gets underway when much-loved Russian fisherman Viktor takes to the mic for his party piece with the help of ceilidh band The Acetones (which stars John Gordon Sinclair on drums). Large drams are poured, the dancing gets faster and emotions run deep as the village comes to terms with the windfall coming its way. As Mac, full of whisky, reflects on the deal, Viktor tells him to cheer up and he has made people very happy. The Russian delivers the killer line to the American: “It is their place Mac, they have a right to make what they can of it. You can’t eat scenery.”
A handful of sand
Negotiations to buy Ferness are beautifully stalled by beachcomber Ben Knox, who lives on the shore in a shelter made from upturned boats. Mac tries to chip away at wise old Ben in a bid to get him to part with the land owned by his family for 400 years, but the offer of great riches for the bay fall to the wind as values of history, family and honest work stand firm. Amid proposals of hundreds of thousands of pounds, Ben tests Mac’s mettle and offers the beach for £1 for every grain of sand he holds in his hand. Mac wants to negotiate in a more business-like way down there on the shore, unaware that Ben holds no more than 10,000 grains of sand in his palm.