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Para Handy – A Voyage Round The Stories of Neil Munro

Eden Court Theatre, Inverness
3 stars
Hard hats and fluorescent bibs are de rigeur down at Inverbeg Council
Recycling Depot at the opening of John Bett's musical reimagining of
some of Neil Munro's boat-bound yarns involving the saltiest of
sea-dogs. Bett's rough-hewn co-production between Eden Court and the
Open Book company looks to his own theatrical roots with 7:84 and
Wildcat as a rudder for this ribald compendium.

For those who may not know the legend, Para Handy is captain of pre
World War One puffer boat the SS Vital Spark. With first mate Dougie,
deckhand Sunny Jim and engineer Macphail in tow, adventures are many as
the crew navigate their way through the Clyde's nether-most reaches.
Once Bett's modern-day framing device is done away with, a busy melee
of song, archive film footage and silent movie style captions are
ushered in amidst an array of sketch-like scenes. These feature a
role-call of comic grotesques in what looks like an extended sit-com
that's burst rudely into life.

The result, once things calm down, is a series of fruitily Runyonesque
encounters, with the fly likes of Jimmy Yuill's Hurricane Jack, whose
courtship of Helen Mackay's Janice Toner-like Peaches McGlumpher is
played with relish. As soundtracked by Robert Pettigrew's live folk
band, such close-up duologues are when things work best, with Para's
own attempts at wooing Annie Grace's evasive Mary Crawford over tea and
buns an absolute hoot. Jimmy Chisholm's Para is played infinitely less
pop-eyed than his TV predecessors, with Peter Kelly camping up
book-worm Macphail for all it's worth in a fun if less than perfect
outing.

The Herald, September 26th 2011

ends

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