This probably invites correction, but it is curious that nobody before

has thought of adapting the fiction of John Galt (1779-1839) for stage.

Despite efforts over the last 20 years to revive his literary reputation

he remains unfashionable, yet it has taken Fifth Estate to perceive that

the theatre might prove the most effective medium through which to

re-present him.

Allan Sharpe's version gives more shape and structure to Galt's series

of pithy anecdotes than might have seemed possible, but more interesting

is the distinct flavour of Moliere that surfaces in this satire about a

decrepit and penurious laird (played with rubber-faced bravura by Jim

Byars) who, in his dubious and ineffectual way, stumbles upon a ruse to

defeat a nouveau riche interloper (Robin Thomas).

The Laird of Auldbiggings survives to spread his particular strain of

dissolution into another generation or two, and we might recognise

something of his likely descendants in James Kennaway's Country Dance,

which Fifth Estate took to Dundee a season ago. This sense of continuity

in the work of yet another of Scotland's hopelessly under-subsidised

companies is to their enormous credit, but there are warning signals in

this particular show that they might be stretching their artistic and

energy resources too thinly.

The framing device, featuring an incongruous huddle of jakies, is a

sloppy and confusing distraction. Perhaps it is that Moliere association

that invites a sometimes too facile retreat into pantomimic caricature,

but arguably that same quality comes direct from Galt himself, perhaps

the most accessible and strangely neglected of Scottish

nineteenth-century writers.