An Appointment with the Wicker Man

27 Feb 2012 in Aberdeen City & Shire, Dance & Drama, Highland, Showcase

His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen, 22 February 2012, and touring

YOU may not know the name, but you’ll recognise the Loch Parry Players. They’re the kind of amdram company you’ll find in towns and villages throughout the country.

YOU’LL be familiar with the founder member who runs the society as if he were in charge of a multinational corporation, his 21-year-old daughter harbouring impossible dreams of stardom in the big city, and the flamboyant director whose camp demeanour and love of a big chorus line suggests his marriage is not a true reflection of his sexual leanings.

An Appointment with the Wicker Man (photo Manuel Harlan)

An Appointment with the Wicker Man (photo Manuel Harlan)

What will be less familiar is the repertoire of the Loch Parry Players. In its time, the company has put on amdram standards from Oliver to Carousel, just as you’d expect. Of late, however, it has branched out into a less conventional programme that includes Glengarry Glenrothes, Gary Glitter: Mad about the Boy and Josef Fritzl Superstar. They haven’t been well received but, regardless, the company is ploughing ahead with an adaptation of The Wicker Man, the cult 1973 horror movie set in the fictional Scottish community of Summerisle where a mainland policeman played by Edward Woodward reckons he’s come across a case of pagan child sacrifice.

Thanks to Paul Giovanni’s whimsical folk score, it turns out to be surprisingly good material for a musical – and there are several full-blown song-and-dance numbers in Vicky Featherstone’s production for the National Theatre of Scotland – but the Loch Parry Players have a drama of their own to be getting on with. One of the lead actors is absent – no one is quite sure why – and a professional actor, famed for his role in TV cop show Blood Beat, has been drafted in as a last-minute replacement.

In this send-up by Greg Hemphill and Donald McLeary, the action of the play within a play begins to mirror the action of the film, and the stand-in actor starts to fear for his life. Behind their jolly and bumbling appearance, the Loch Parry Players appear to be as evil as their counterparts in the movie.

Performed by a top team of Scottish actors, An Appointment with the Wicker Man is a big-hearted and funny romp. It’s also throw-away and insubstantial, providing fun and laughter while it lasts, but nothing to get your teeth into once the comedy subsides. Like the flaming wicker man, it dazzles and delights, then burns out quickly.

© Francis McLachlan, 2012