Fringe Review: An Appointment with the Wicker Man - The Assembly Rooms ✭✭✭

The Wicker Man cast in full flow. Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan
The Loch Parry Players have always been associated with quality shows like "Gary Glitter: Mad About the Boy" and "The Black Watch Minstrel Show" but audiences have been flagging of late. Hoping to lure a crowd, they turn their attention to The Wicker Man, a Scottish cult-classic which none of them have actually seen. With just days to go before the big opening, the star of the show disappears, forcing their director to dip into the Treasurer's purse and find the funds to pay for a replacement.

He casts a hot shot actor from glamorous Glasgow in the hope that he will get "bums on seats". But as life begins to imitate art, the parallels between the people of Loch Parry and the people of The Wicker Man's Summer Isle grow, forcing the young actor to make the tough decision between his personal safety and earning a few extra grand on his fee.

Greg Hemphill and Donald McLeary have woven together a self-referential and funny show. Whilst some of the humour would make Roy Chubby Brown clutch at his pearls like Mary Whitehouse watching a particularly saucy episode of Songs of Praise, An Appointment with the Wicker Man is a genuinely funny and endearing piece of character comedy. Whilst I'm not sure how this humour would translate to an international audience, it certainly made this Glasgow boy titter. The greatest pleasure here is undoubtedly Vicky Featherstone's cast, wholly excellent, seizing the local humour of Hemphill and McLeary's script and leaving the audience in roars of laughter.

And yet, despite its charm, this Wicker Man is at times rather singed at its edges. The ending has more revelation than a book of Sergeant Howie's Bible and, as a disappointing consequence, the conclusion to the piece, and more than a few moments preceding it, feel more like a messy pantomime than a production by the National Theatre of Scotland.

Furthermore, the play supposes a lot of knowledge of its audience and much of the piece's wit, its parallel scenes and misappropriation of original content, could be lost on those who don't know the film well. The detail is impressive, of course, but the play could do more to flesh out the reference points for those who don't know The Wicker Man from a wicker basket.

Despite its flaws, An Appointment with the Wicker Man remains worth keeping. This is a ray of summer sun in a grey and muggy city.

Review by Scott Purvis

At the Assembly Rooms until 26th August
Tickets: £16 (£12 Concessions)