WHO can forget Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, the 2001 films starring Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz?

The answer is anyone who ever saw it. To say it was a turkey is unfair to creatures who have purpose in life, if only to make it ‘till Christmas.

Cage was an entirely improbable as the invading Italian captain who arrives in the Greek island of Cephalonia during the Second World War and wreaks havoc on the heart of doctor’s daughter Pelagia.

But the entirely unrealistic actor wasn’t entirely to blame. How do you transform Louis de Bernieres’ 544-page classic, a moving story of defiance, a tale of the absurdity of war into a two-hour stage play?

Playwright Rona Munro has been charged with bringing Corelli to the theatre, 25 years after the novel was released. Was she scared stiff all the way down to her toes?

“Yes, I did read it and go ‘Oh my god’ because it’s a huge story and there are so many characters in it. My first thought was you’d need a ten-part TV series just to get them all in.

“So, yes, I was a little daunted. But I’d already worked with director Melly Still and she has a wonderful gift for doing things with music and movement that can condense action, so I knew what she was capable of.”

How to condense such a sweeping tale?

“Well, I tried to remember what I recalled from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin; it was the love story, the epic sweep of war and having the experience of going on a wonderful Greek holiday, even though it’s a difficult war story.”

The writer adds; “If I felt I could achieve that I felt I could pull it off.”

The essence of the book featured the little quixotic flights of fortune our hearts can sometimes follow. Was it important to get this magic across?

“Yes, that’s an interesting way to describe it because these spontaneous acts are what allows the survival of the love, even in the face of everything that happens.

“Love is the ultimate act of optimism.”

The project, took just a year to complete. “I’m getting faster as I get older because I’m running out of time,” she says, grinning.

Or it could be that with age (Munro is 59) comes experience, and the knowing of how to tell an epic tale?highighted by the incredible James Plays, the acclaim which the likes of The Last Witch achieved?

“I certainly learned technique from writing those plays,” she agrees.

Growing up in Aberdeen, Monro in fact began writing at the age of eight. “I was a child prodigy,” she laughs.

Yet, but what was amazing was she saw the possibility she could construct a play at such a young age.

“Yes, and then believing it’s a possible profession. I was so lucky with my parents and teachers who were supportive, although my careers teacher suggested I go to university and then go on to become an English teacher. But back then I suppose it was all about securing a proper job for life. Why would you want to blow this certainty of security for a daft wee hobby?

Before Munro hit pay dirt with her first successful play Bold Girls in 1990, dirt played a major part in her her career progression. “The most useful job I had was working as a cleaner,” she recalls, with a wry smile. “I used to clean offices in the mornings, and then afternoons were free to write. And if I’d gone into teaching I wouldn’t have the energy to write at the end of the day.”

Munro, who now lives in Selkirk, is as happy with a broad comedy or a drama. “Part of it is down to necessity. It’s about earning a living. And I’ve looked at each experience as a chance to develop the craft.”

She adds; “One of the highlights of my life has been that I’ve been able to work with the legendary Stanley Baxter,” she says of her Radio Four comedy plays.

But if Corelli has been a monster challenge Munro’s next challenge is literally that. “I’m writing a stage play of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” she says, smiling. “It should be fun.”

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, the Theatre Royal, until Saturday.