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Waverley by Walter Scott, dramatized by Mike Harris

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Classic Serial on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 29 April 2013
 
The third in Radio 4's entertaining Great Scott trilogy found English officer Edward Waverley (Rupert Evans) posted to Scotland during the 1745 Rebellion led by Bonnie Prince Charlie (Joe McFadden).  After being accused of flirting with the enemy, Waverley joined the enemy forces and helped to defeat the English at the Battle of Prestonpans.  However things do not quite turn out as Waverley had hoped; he falls in love with Rose (Olivia Morgan), and Flora (Alison McKenzie), and finds himself unwittingly drawn into a world of tribal loyalties and fragile alliances.  He finds himself a wanted man; and eventually has to escape from Scotland and England, relying on others to clear his name.
 
Waverley is at heart a picaresque adventure involving a clean-cut hero trying to act according to his conscience.  Sometimes he makes grievous errors of judgment, but he remains fundamentally trustworthy.  In the cut-throat world of the Scots clans, where family loyalties run deep and outsiders are permanent objects of suspicion, he soon understands that any action, however well-intentioned, can be misunderstood.  Nor should he trust the judgement of anyone around him - especially the women he loves.  Blood is thicker than water, so to speak.
 
As Walter Scott, David Tennant recounted the tale in the continuous present, almost as if he were reporting the events at first-hand.  This technique invested the production with dramatic immediacy, as we eagerly awaited to find out what happened next.  At the same time Scott was sufficiently detached from the story to be able to comment ironically on the characters.  Sometimes their reactions seemed slightly excessive, even though they could be explained.  At the end of the story Scott observed rather cynically that, once Waverley had returned to British shores, he went to Scotland to live a "complacent" life that contrasted starkly with his involvement in the '45 Rebellion.  We were left to wonder whether all his adventures had been worthwhile or not.
 
Waverley proved great fun, performed with great Úlan by the cast and livened by graphic sound-effects.  The director was Clive Brill.