FEATURE HAMISH MACBETH
similarities — sparky young policeman solves
14 The List l8 Novcttthcr—-l December IWJ
Wild at hearth
The BBC’s search for a popular early evening drama has ended up in a tiny fishing village in the West Highlands. Eddie Gibb wrapped up warm to bring back this location report.
lockton on a chilly November afternoon: a film crew is shooting inside the village hall and nerves are starting to fray. Take after take is ruined by the vocal interventions of four picture-postcard Highland cows mooching around outside; inside the cast are becoming antsy and now there‘s a hare stuck in the camera. Or maybe it was a hair. but whatever. it‘s another delay the director could do without.
Welcome to Lochdubh. the fictional village played by Plockton. where local policeman Hamish Macbeth. played by Bobby (7arlylc. takes a maverick approach to law enforcement. The setting is a quintessential West Highland fishing village with low. white-washed cottages ranged in a rough are round a sheltered bay full of bobbing dinghies. Dotted along the shoreline are palm trees — yes. palm trees — that stand as conclusive proof of the Gulf Stream‘s existence. This is where Macbeth. the sort of a (ilasgow copper. has made his home. He devotes much of his
energy to avoiding hassle or. worse. promotion to police headquarters in the
throbbing metropolis of lnverness. Macbeth is your basic rural slacker.
In the theatre. to mention the Scottish Play is to invite all sorts of bad drama karma: on the set of I‘Iamish Macbeth. the taboo word is ‘Macl—leartbeat‘. There are superficial
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Robert Carlyle is Hamish Macbeth: the Law unto himself
crimes that baffle his superiors in scenery of outstanding natural beauty. And BBC Scotland wouldn‘t be averse to the ratings the Yorkshire police series pulls in. With Morse writer Daniel Boyle and production company Zenith on board. it could happen.
But unlike Heartbeat. the signs are that this won‘t be a slab of nostalgia telly. Series producer Deidre Keir. an expatriate Scot living down south. has promised her actor father Andrew that Hamish Macbeth will not be a misty. couthy promo-video selling Scotch myths to the network. ‘My father told me the Scots are very touchy about how they are portrayed on television.‘ she says. ‘What they’re not happy about is when they are portrayed — and these are his words — as hairy-arsed Highlanders.’
Back in the village hall. the scene that’s causing the problems is almost surreal: a group of villagers rehearses a production of West Side Story backed by a fiddle band. with l-lamish as lead Jet. ‘Boy. boy. play it cool. boy’. . . the words are repeated until everyone’s involuntarily muttering them under their breath. ‘Boy. boy. cut the juice. boy‘. Aaaargh! Finally the cattle head off down llarbour Street and the shot is completed.
'They tell me it takes a whole day to make three minutes for the television.’ says the man selling papers in the village shop. ‘I was in it —l had to walk up and down 20 times until they got it right.‘
I tell him the production is costing an estimated £3 million but nothing would surprise him now. Hamish Macbeth is on the last leg of a fourteen-week shoot which has seen over 7() cast and crew descend on a village which normally has only 200 inhabitants. They‘ve taken over the castle across the bay as the production office. plonked a mobile catering unit down in the car park and booked tip most of the available beds in
the village’s B&Bs. The pubs have done pretty well out of it too. It’s doubtful whether Plockton has ever seen so many pairs of Caterpillar boots and Puffa jackets.
There’s a kind of Local Hero aspect to all this. Alright. so crofters aren’t sitting about debating whether to buy a Roller or a Lamborghini but everyone’s expecting a boost to the local economy. At the very least it‘ll mean a substantial donation to the village hall roof fund from the production company and most of the locals have been used as extras. which many reckon is the easiest money they‘d ever earned for a day’s standing around.
‘My father told me the Scots are very touchy about how they are portrayed on television. What they’re not happy about
is when they are portrayed - and these are his words — as hairy-arsed Highlanders.’
But if the schedule fixers in London like the programmes. and Hamish Macbeth attracts big audiences. a second series is on the cards. Plockton folk are well aware of the effect The Last of the Summer Wine had on the Yorkshire village of Holmfirth which heaves with fans of Compo and the gang. ‘lt could be a bonanza for the area.‘ says one local businessman.
The crew say they’ve been made very welcome. even if they do have some funny ideas about entertainment. Tonight is karaoke night. with a couple of bright sparkies rigging up some pretty serious-looking sound equipment in the Creag nan Darach pub (being a bunch of know- nothing Lowlanders without the Gaelic. the crew have shortened it to the C ‘n’ D). Sadly the star — the villagersjust call him llamish — stays home to learn his lines and prepare for a 6am call. So it was left to Cookey from the catering corps (I never checked he was called Cookey, but they generally are) to entertain us with some hits from the 70s. A couple of cast members are rehearsing a rendition of ‘Voulez Vous' in the toilets — the acoustics are better. you see — at which point this reporter made his excuses and left. Ll Hamish Macbeth continues shooting in Plockton until early December and will be screened on 88 C I I1(’.\'I'\‘(’(lli
Plockton plays lochdubh