Appointment with the Wicker Man Review
The National Theatre of Scotland has the ironically inclusive slogan of ‘theatre without walls’ having in their 5 year history produced theatre in spaces from airports to allotment sites, from forests to pubs, from flats to ferries. It is fitting then that they produce a show whose own walls are as shoogly as those from Acorn Antiques, Victoria Wood’s wonderful spoof of a TV soap where the set famously wobbled and tumbled throughout the performance.
In the magnificent Music Hall of the newly refurbished Assembly Rooms, the audience was entertained in the variety show style of yesteryear to upbeat, cheery music to set the tone of a good night out.
They faced the pretend proscenium arch on the real stage, a fine wee metaphor for the awaited play itself - a tale of a troupe of amateur actors, the Loch Parry Players, based on a remote Scottish island, who are planning to stage their version of the Robin Hardy’s 1973 cult horror film, The Wicker Man, written by Anthony Shaffer.
Their leading man, Roger Morgan, has mysteriously disappeared but a famous actor who played a TV cop is arriving from faraway Glasgow to take his place. Are they the bunch of bumbling buffoons they appear to be or are they sinister, virgin burning mad men who’ll go to any lengths to increase either their apple crop or theatre audiences?
From the get go, the audience was on board as Johnny McKnight camped his way across the stage, directing Duncan, the only-ever- heard sound man. Already we know we are in for an event of Scottish daftness with a Brechtian edge. The deeply sinister original tale takes on a pantomime quality with singing, dancing and bawdy music hall fun and indeed glee.
The stellar Scottish cast carried out that great Tommy Cooper trick of being consummate at his art while appearing to be a complete bungler. The script, in Hemphill’s style of Still Game and Chewin the Fat, was sometimes cringingly crude, but it was also very funny - full of Scottish references, jokes and innuendo that go a long way to dispelling Scotland’s Presbyterian reputation. It captured to great comic effect the narrowness of smaa toun living where Glasgow seems as exciting as New York. (Och, why should it no be!?)
The show’s programme, a spoof in its own right, advertises The Wicker Man and brilliantly stays in its own character throughout with local Loch Parry adverts the likes of gents’ left shoe sale and the local charity, Nan Cameron’s new oven foundation.
With wonky wigs, a ‘methadone actor’, an adult sleepsuit such as you’ll never see again and a great big showtime ending this is a high hand clapping romp worth seeing.
NTS is sponsored by the Scottish Government, Bank of Scotland and Creative Scotland.
Show times: Wed 1 Aug – Sun 26 Aug at 3:10pm (not Mondays)
BSL interpreted - 16th Aug/Audio Described – 19th Aug /Captioned Perf – 23rd
Ticket prices: £16/£12, suggested age 16+