BBC Radio 7, 9-13 July 2009
Gaynor MacFarlane's adaptation evoked an Arthurian world of chivalry, where heroes like Francis (Tom George) learn how to fend for themselves, with the help of the chameleon-like Rob Roy (Liam Brennan), who seems to turn up just at the right moment to rescue Francis from ticklish situations. Pitted against these two is an hissable baddie Rashleigh (Sean Chapman), who inherited Francis' estate and proceeds to ruin it through a combination of mismanagement and self-interest. Needless to say he meets his just deserts at the end, as Francis slays him in a duel and assumed his rightful position as master of the estate.
Francis begins the adaptation with a particular penchant for poetry - a particularly effeminate choice of vocation. His experiences in Scotland are designed to prove his masculinity; having settled in the Highlands, he experiences a series of picaresque adventures, each designed to test his mettle. He also encounters Di Vernon (Vicki Liddell), who challenges his understanding of gender toles with her aggressive manner and staunch common-sense. Writing poetry, for him, means treating women as quasi-goddesses: Di soon teaches him that such representations are only found in books. Francis learns the same lesson from Rob Roy'swife Helen McGregor, who proves a doughty fighter, presiding Boudicca-like over her rebel forces and teaching him the important lesson of never giving up in the face of adversity.
However Scott is not content to draw upon the conventions of the picaresque romance: much of the plot is driven by Di, with Rob Roy assuming a paternal presence in the background. Such strategies constitute part of Francis' education - until such time as he can determine his own life, no one will consider him a 'true' man. Eventually he teams up with Rob Roy to achieve his twin goals - to reassume rightful possession of the estate and get the girl (Di Vernon) in the process. In view of his past behaviour, however, we still wonder whether he will be able to cope with her particular brand of aggressive femininity.
The book offers a romanticized portrait of Scottish history, full of brave landowners and proficient fighters who struggle to maintain the country's independence against the marauding English, as well as those turncoat Anglo-Scots who would sacrifice the country's integrity for money. Scott's vision might be idealized, but it makes great entertainment as the action proceeds at a cracking pace from incident to incident. As with other Scottish romances broadcast recently on Radio 7 - The Weir of Hermiston and Huntingtower being two examples - Rob Roy was performed with great relish by a vocally talented cast.