A compilation of short comedy films on three key texts for National Five English: Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson, Bold Girls by Rona Munro and Sailmaker by Alan Spence.
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Morning! Kidnapped, right?
And, er, I'm the narrator.
Ah, yes, OK.
Kidnapped is an adventure novel set in 18th century Scotland,
told by our hero, David Balfour.
Ah, yes, I am indeed the hero or protagonist.
Although there are two main characters.
We meet David at 17. With his mother, and now father, gone,
he seeks out his mysterious and wealthy uncle -
Ebenezer Balfour of the House of Shaws.
Ebenezer appears mean and untrustworthy
and all but sends him to his death by leading him
to a dangerously dilapidated tower next to the house.
The next day a cabin boy, Ransome, arrives at Ebenezer's house
with a message from Captain Hoseason.
Ebenezer decides to go to Queensferry to meet with Hoseason,
and David, wanting to see ships and the sea for the first time,
Ha-hargh! Cap'n Hoseason at your service.
-You were Ransome a minute ago.
Actors' strike, I'm filling in. Ha-hargh!
I'm Cap'n Hoseason of the Covenant -
a ship that deals with Mr Ebenezer's business.
But you're not a pirate, you're a Captain.
-Tone it down a bit.
-Aye, aye, Cap'n!
Once at Queensferry, David is kidnapped by Hoseason
who's been paid off by Ebenezer.
With Hoseason in charge, the ship is a brutal place.
Ransome is murdered and David becomes the cabin boy.
Soon the Covenant is dashed against another boat in the storm
and the crew picks up its only survivor - a strange Highlander,
dressed as a French soldier calling himself Alan Breck Stewart.
Hoseason and his crew plan to rob and murder the stranger,
but with David's help he fights off his attackers
and an unbreakable bond is formed
between the two very different characters.
The middle section of the book...
Featuring loads of great observational stuff
about the social political climate of the time in Scotland...
But mainly about my growth as a character...
The middle section follows David's plot to return to the Lowlands
and is set against the backdrop of real historical events, including
the murder, by Highlanders, of the King's agent, Colin Campbell.
Ah, yes, the old Red Squirrel.
Red Fox! I hate that guy!
When David arrives in Appin, he meets a group of men that includes
Campbell, who at that very moment
is shot and killed by an unknown assassin.
David flees and runs into Alan. The two are now murder suspects
and face a gruelling flight through the wilderness.
Along the way they hide out with the Highland leader, Cluny MacPherson.
While the exhausted David rests...
I'm off for some shuteye, my good man.
Whatever you do, don't gamble away all our money while I'm asleep.
..Alan and Cluny play cards and Alan gambles away all their money.
A huge row follows until Alan realises David is incredibly sick.
Once David recovers, he returns to Queensferry
and the final part of our story -
David's plot to uncover the truth and avenge his kidnapping.
David's lawyer, Rankeillor...
You're a lawyer, not a judge.
It was the only legal prop they had.
..Rankeillor reveals that David is the true heir
to the House of Shaws estate.
At the house, Alan gets Ebenezer to admit his plan.
Were you, Mr Ebenezer, plotting to sell
David into slavery in the Carolinas?
I heard that. The game is up.
The story ends with David about to claim his fortune...
Goodbye, my old friend. I'm all right, Jack!
I mean, Alan. See ya!
..promising Alan he will send him the money he needs to get to France
to be with his clan leader.
I'm sure that will happen.
Kidnapped is told from the viewpoint of David.
A 17-year-old who is left alone when his father dies
and sets off on a coming-of-age adventure.
Along the way he matures through facing a series of immense
challenges, from leaving his Lowland home to his determination at the end
to claim what is rightfully his in a dignified and compassionate way.
Yet David is also a contradictory character, and despite the fact
he is the narrator, we're encouraged to recognise his faults.
When he realises he could have escaped from Erraid
simply by walking across at low tide, he admits his own stupidity.
I am such a townie.
Whilst he can also be stubborn and immature.
I'm not immature.
From the moment they meet, David identifies Alan as a tough,
An agile and skilled Highland soldier,
fiercely loyal to his clan and family name.
He is ruthless and cunning...
So why is this book no' called Alan's Tale, eh?
..whilst also being vain and quick to take offence.
Alan's Highland perspective means he frequently sees things
differently from David.
But Alan owes his life to David and will never forget that debt.
There are also a number of minor characters in Kidnapped.
David's Uncle Ebenezer is a selfish, cunning figure.
Ha-ha-ha... Aye! You'll no' get my money.
Wind your neck in, pal. He said "minor" characters.
Ebenezer is old, rude and greedy.
There's a wee bit that I promised you before you were born
and it has grown to be a matter of just precisely...
Oh, oh, oh, I see, it's the old tight Scotsman stereotype, is it?
But Ebenezer is dangerous too, willing to send David to
an uncertain fate just to protect his ill-gotten gains.
The naval captain, Hoseason, is another contradictory character.
Ha-hargh! No, I'm not.
Yes, you are and you're not a pirate.
Hoseason claims to be a man of religion and honour,
but ruthlessly prioritises his livelihood more than any human life.
Henderland is a preacher who helps David across Mull.
He's a Lowlander living in the Highlands
and illustrates the religious, linguistic and cultural divisions
that existed in this time of change in Scotland.
Oh, is that so?
Highland clan leader Cluny...
..is a sad figure.
He's right, I'm sad.
He's lost almost everything, and the game of cards he plays with Alan...
Come on, Alan, Top Trumps, Clan Leaders - let's play!
..represents his only chance of both proving himself
and engaging in a gentlemanly pastime.
And finally the lawyer, Rankeillor, plays the part of the ultimate canny
Lowlander, keen on the letter of the law.
He is willing to help David
but insists he's told as little as possible about Alan
because of his alleged involvement in the murder of Colin Campbell.
Mum's the word. Here's my card.
They're minor characters, remember, so don't forget -
Whilst Kidnapped is in many ways a straightforward adventure story,
there are many themes running through it.
Themes are for dreams.
Themes such as maturity...
The novel also explores the idea of duality,
where something has two parts.
Alan and David, for example, have hugely contrasting backgrounds.
These contrasts draw attention to the two different
sides of Scotland during this turbulent time in history.
It's 1752. An attempted rebellion by Bonnie Prince Charlie
to overthrow King George II has been crushed.
The Highland clan system has been dismantled
and the Lowlands were experiencing the beginnings of industry
and civilisation as we know it today.
Hoots and poppycock! What's so good about civilisation?
Match Of The Day, carpets, Lady Gaga!
Many of the book's characters also have two sides,
like Alan who is loyal and generous...
Fancy a crisp, David?
..but utterly ruthless when he needs to be.
No more crisps for you...ever!
Nature is a constant challenge to David and Alan,
which tells us a lot about them.
David is humble when he thinks he has been stranded on Erraid
only to discover he could simply walk across when it's low tide.
His flight with Alan across Rannoch Moor, exposed to the elements,
almost breaks him.
Meeting these challenges helps David to mature
and reveals Alan to be an ingenious and tough character.
Loyalty and friendship is another key theme.
By saving Alan's life, David wins his loyalty,
but there's a constant tension between them.
A key source of strain between the two characters
comes from their different views about honour and respect.
The many different interpretations of honour
and respect are in display in one particular scene where Alan
loses David's money in a game of cards with clan leader Cluny.
Well, I'm embarrassed cos I have to ask for my money back.
And I'm embarrassed
because I would never take another gentleman's money.
And I'm embarrassed because you two are so lame!
We're all mates, it's just a bit of money. Get over it!
It's just an adventure book.
CLEARS HIS THROAT
Sailmaker is set in Govan, Glasgow, in the 1960s,
with the majority of action taking place in a tenement flat
shared by Davie and his young son, Alec.
The play starts with Alec recalling the abrupt way
in which his father had told him that his mother had died.
Got a bit of bad news for you, son.
Yer mammy's dead.
I'll make a cup of tea.
The story then follows father and son over a decade
as they both respond to their loss in different ways.
Davie used to be a sailmaker.
I'm so proud that you're a sailmaker, Dad.
But with the once-mighty shipbuilding industry in decline,
he's forced to work unhappily as a debt collector.
OK. I'm so proud that you USED to be a sailmaker, Dad.
And Davie is determined that Alec gain a better education,
so he can escape a similar fate.
Don't ever be a sailmaker, son.
Get good grades and you can do something...
Alec and his cousin, Ian, are very close
and enjoy playing imaginative games together.
Let's play grown-ups, Ian,
and imagine what it would be like if we were really tall.
But they drift apart
when Alec becomes involved with his local church.
Church is rubbish.
Ian, meanwhile, is content to be working-class like his dad, Billy -
that's Davie's brother.
You just need a trade, son, that's all you need.
OK, no probs, will do.
And when Alec secures a scholarship to a private school,
he mocks him for wanting to better himself.
Throughout the play, an old wooden toy yacht
is at the centre of the action.
Alec finds it abandoned in a cupboard
and asks his dad to make a sail for it.
You used to be a sailmaker, Dad,
so this would be a massively symbolic opportunity for you
to face up to the pains of the past and move on in life.
But despite his promises and passion for the craft, it never happens.
I'd love to help you, son,
but I'm too busy sinking deeper and deeper into a long-term depression.
His Uncle Billy, however, is quick to do his bit,
even repainting the boat for Alec.
Thanks, Uncle Billy.
Now, I've got a beautifully painted symbolic toy yacht.
Just need those sails now, Dad.
The play ends on a bleak and depressing note,
with Alec looking forward to going to university
-and getting his own place.
-Well, that's me out of here, then, Dad.
I took your advice and got an education.
So, I'm off, leaving you alone and without hope.
With the bills unpaid and the house so cold,
they have to burn their possessions including, finally, the toy yacht.
It'll keep us warm and give a meaningful moment for both of us.
Sailmaker's central character is Alec.
We meet him as a young boy who has recently lost his mother.
Unlike his father, Davie, he grieves openly, and as a result is
able to move on whilst his father remains stuck in a rut.
-I suppose that's true, right enough.
-It is, yeah!
Alec is smart and imaginative, as we see in the games that he plays with
the old broken toy yacht he found hidden away in the family home.
Super yacht, sailing on the ocean. Whoooa!
He seems to be after some sort of escapism,
and by the second act had become heavily involved in the Church.
I love God, me. I think I'll learn all the catechisms.
Church isnae for people like us, son.
All you need to know is Catholics are bad, right?
Alec soon realises that he has no real faith.
What he likes about the church is memorising bits of the Bible.
That boy needs a trade.
His efforts to rise above the social class through education,
drilled into him by his father, Davie, cause him
to drift away from Ian and later his lethargic and depressed dad, too.
Alec's cousin, Ian, is an uncomplicated character,
but also represents attitudes common at the time, that wanting
a better life also meant betraying your class,
but he does have ambitions to join the Army.
Imagine getting paid to play Call Of Duty!
It wasn't even around then!
His dad convinces him that all you need is a trade
and also passes on his bigotry about Catholics.
All you need is a trade, son,
although I woudnae bother working for any Catholics.
Despite Billy's rather narrow outlook,
he often compares favourably to his brother.
He keeps his promise to Alec and paints his toy yacht,
he battles back from redundancy by learning a new trade and even
relocates to Aberdeen with Ian so neither of them slide into poverty.
Listen, son, if you lose your trade, you get a new trade or you
move somewhere to find a trade.
Basically trade, trade, trade, trade, trade.
Meanwhile, Davie himself is in decline
from the moment Alec's mum dies.
We learn the young Davie was very different - he read the classics.
And he was a skilled sailmaker, but as a struggling, widowed father,
he lacks the confidence to bounce back
and make his son proud once more.
He's a good man but his eventual lack of self-respect is so total,
he borrows his son's bursary money to pay the bills
but uses it to drink and gamble.
As Alec starts to fulfil his potential,
he nears the escape his dad encouraged him to make
and the relationship weakens.
By the end, a hardened Alec is preparing to move out of home
and move to university, leaving his dad facing an uncertain future.
What will become of you, Dad?
I'll be fine, son, I'll just...
There are several underlying themes in Sailmaker,
namely those of family and social class.
You should listen to these, son, education is important.
OK, Dad, perhaps you can mend the sails on this toy yacht
-while I'm at it.
-Aye, I could do, it's just I've got to, em...
Alec and Davie's family situation changes at the beginning
of the play with the death of Alec's mother.
Whilst Davie had been a skilled sailmaker,
he had found himself doing undesirable jobs.
I'm a debt collector.
So he impresses on Alec the need to escape his working-class roots
whilst doing little to better his own life.
Across the play, the dreams that Davie encourages Alec to pursue
gradually push father and son further and further apart.
In contrast, Davie's brother, Billy,
and his son Ian's relationship, remains stable throughout...
Happy the way we are.
..symbolising their contentment with being working-class.
Which is what my dad said, just with fancy words.
Billy and Ian share the same slightly narrow-minded,
unambitious outlook on life
but also the same pragmatic approach to its challenges.
In the end they simply stick together
and go to where the work is, Aberdeen,
without any apparent drama or complaint.
Aberdeen's very nice, I'll have you know.
A secondary theme in the play is grief.
A young Alec grieves heavily
and is thus able to come to terms with his mother's death.
OK, onwards and upwards for me, I think. You coming, Dad?
No, I'll probably just, em...
Davie, though, avoids the pain of grief. He's an intelligent man
but allows himself to descend into apathy and depression.
And when Alec teases him about a woman...
It's always the same. Every time you meet a woman, she's a really,
really nice person. Why don't you just admit that you fancy her?
..he slaps him.
Despite all Alec's education,
he fails to recognise his father's loneliness.
Our final theme in the play is religion.
To Ian and Billy, religion is about sectarianism and bigotry -
widespread in Glasgow and the West of Scotland at the time.
Protestants are great. Catholics arenae great.
And the play shows us how easily such attitudes are passed on
through the generations.
Catholics are nae great.
Davie raises Alec in a more tolerant environment
and Alec shows an interest in spirituality from the outset
and a desire for God to send him a sign.
He rejects organised religion, though, leaving the Church
and even then, at the end, being prepared to throw a hymn book
on the fire just so he and his father can keep warm.
Shall I just chuck this on, then, Dad?
I don't think I should get involved. I better just, em...
Meet the Bold Girls.
Bold Girls follows a day in the lives of four ordinary women
living in Belfast in the early 1990s.
Oh, look how ordinary we are!
Here's an ironing board.
The play begins in Marie's house,
where she's gossiping with Cassie and Cassie's mother, Nora.
Meanwhile, tensions between the Catholic community
and the British soldiers policing it come to a head.
A peculiar mood is created by the presence of a mystery girl
who is watching Marie's house.
Suddenly, with sirens blaring, there's a loud banging on the door.
Deirdre, the mystery girl..
..enters the house in a white dress soaked through.
She is sullen and strange
and disappears into the bathroom uninvited to have a shower.
It soon becomes apparent
that there's tension between Nora and Cassie.
God forgive me for bringing a child into this world
with a heart of flint and a tongue to match.
Meanwhile Marie recalls her late husband, Michael, fondly.
A picture of him dominates the set
and she observes strangely that Deirdre looks a bit like him.
When no-one's looking, Cassie hides some money behind the picture.
By the end of the scene, Deirdre secretly removes it.
Scene two takes us to the Bold Girls' night out.
Nora thinks that Cassie is dressed...inappropriately...
..while Cassie confides in Marie
that she is dreading her husband, Joe, being released from prison.
Deirdre, who works in the club as a waitress...
..reveals she once saw Cassie with a man in a blue car.
Cassie explodes with rage...
..and has to be dragged away before she hits Deirdre.
In a short scene three, the action moves outside the club, where Cassie
tells Marie she has saved up £200 and is going to run away.
We then see Deirdre alone with a piece of peach fabric that
house-proud Nora has her heart set on decorating the house with,
destroying it with a knife.
The final scene takes place at Marie's house
at the end of the night.
Cassie shockingly reveals that she slept with Marie's husband, Michael.
Deirdre reveals that she is Michael's illegitimate daughter.
What more do you want?
-Take him. What good do you think he'll be to you?
He was my daddy.
Marie smashes the photo of the husband she once idealized,
yet as the play closes, it seems she is ready to forgive Deirdre
and somehow move on.
All of the main characters in Bold Girls
are bold in their own individual way.
I'm the tough one.
I'm the brave one.
And I'm the gobby one.
Whilst the men in their lives have a huge impact, they are all absent.
The Bold Girls must - and do - survive without them.
Marie is courageous.
She kids herself that her husband was faithful, a heroic family man,
but she does so for her children.
However, when she learns the truth that her husband betrayed her
-with her best friend...
-Get out of my house!
She actually throws crisps at me!
..she somehow finds a way of accepting it
and moving on and doing what she feels is right as a mother.
She's the only character that faces the truth and undergoes a change.
Her story is symbolised by the picture of Michael.
It dominates the set but at the end lies smashed and demolished.
Cassie is brash and self-destructive.
The way she dresses and her aggression
makes her provocative in every way.
Cassie implies she's desperate to escape,
but the money she slowly steals from her mother - a meagre £200 -
implies she's a dreamer and that this will never happen.
Now you're trying!
Nora represents the stoic older generation of women
that feared their husbands, favoured their sons
and didn't believe in chasing dreams of a better life.
She's not afraid to stand up to British soldiers,
but only when it threatens her escape. Domestic perfection.
Oh, would you look at what those great big boots are doing
to my nasturtiums?
Her journey is symbolised by the role of peach fabric
that she invests so much energy in.
It disappears and we see her shallow dream easily destroyed.
But Nora will simply carry on and try again.
What will I do without it?
Ah, well, just have to get some more.
Finally the mysterious Deirdre is the catalyst
that brings everything to a head.
Woooo! I'm a caterpillar.
Catalyst! You make stuff happen!
Deirdre has been denied a life of her own,
so she steals from others and actively seeks the truth.
Her journey is symbolised by the knife
she uses to destroy Nora's dream.
We all need the truth but the truth can be damaging and destructive.
My knife of truth.
Oh, some lovely peach fabric.
Perhaps the most striking theme running through Bold Girls
is that of truth and self-delusion.
Marie, Cassie and Nora have all, in different ways,
failed to face up to the truth.
Their lives are about survival, and the truth could make things harder.
Marie maintains an idolised view of her late husband, Michael,
so that she and her kids can keep going.
My lovely Michael. The family man, so true and honest.
What a great guy.
But the signs are there from the start,
both that he was unfaithful and that she knows it.
# La-la-la-la! #
Her journey reveals that the truth hurts, but only by confronting
it and accepting it can you become empowered and move on.
Hmm, never mind!
Cassie uses brashness to suggest she is a force of harsh truth.
Her sarcastic comments to Marie...
Oh, Marie, you're so cool. Your hair looks amazing.
-The REAL lines?
-They're all the same, Marie.
Wasn't he just the perfect saint of a man?
Cassie is frustrated by Marie's blind faith in Michael,
but she herself is skilled in delusion,
blaming Nora and her nagging for the domestic violence
she suffered at the hands of her husband, Cassie's dad.
She even blames it on eggs.
He didn't like eggs, I gave him eggs.
I drove him to it.
Eggs are not an excuse for domestic violence.
In the final act we discover the truth
that Cassie can never escape from. She slept with Marie's husband.
Like the £200 she saved up, it's another futile act of escapism
and self-delusion that will get her nowhere.
Nora, meanwhile, hides in a domestic perfectionism.
Widowed from a violent husband...
-Ah, doesn't matter!
-..her sons in prison...
-It's no big deal.
-..at loggerheads with her daughter...
-..and with chaos outside her front door...
Oh, you just got to love those Troubles(!)
..this is clearly a delusion.
For her, though, there's no point in dreaming.
The truth - that her life is not that great - is best left ignored.
Bold Girls also explores the status of women
and their relationship with men.
The absent men symbolise negative qualities - infidelity...
That's YOUR husband.
-That's MY husband.
-That's YOUR husband.
-It's your fault, you gave him eggs.
Whilst the women, in contrast, are bold.
They've got on with their lives and raised children,
despite tough circumstance and flawed relationships.
Marie is the only character to grow.
She concludes that men and women, for all their faults,
need one another.
Our final theme in Bold Girls is that of conflict,
the conflict between truth and reality,
the conflict between men and women,
the conflict between women and women
and the political conflict that provides the play's backdrop.
Once again conflict brings truth -
unavoidable and, of course, destructive -
but the only way to move forward.
No, it isn't!
Yes, it is.
I see what you've done there.
What a lovely way to end it!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
A compilation of short comedy films on the plot, characters and themes of three key texts for National Five English: Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson, Bold Girls by Rona Munro and Sailmaker by Alan Spence. Our host and narrator, comedian Iain Stirling, guides us through a series of tongue-in-cheek reconstructions as he attempts to unlock the secrets of each work.