His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen As sacred cows of Scottish pop culture go, Robin Hardie’s 1970s post counter-culture big-screen pagan romp The Wicker Man has become an icon of weird Caledonia. Greg Hemphill and Donald McLeary’s approach to the film’s legacy is to take screenwriter Anthony Shaffer’s original yarn about a virgin copper who uncovers a ritualistic conspiracy while investigating a young girl’s disappearance on a remote island, and turn it into a very camp piece of music hall absurdism. The conceit in Vicky Featherstone’s National Theatre of Scotland production is to focus on a rubbish fictional am-dram group’s own ludicrous attempt to put The Wicker Man onstage, with all the cack-handed egomania one might expect from such a ruse. The result, as Sean Biggerstaff’s too cool for school TV actor Rory is hired to give the show some kudos, is a curious mish-mash of drug-induced Noises Off style backstage shenanigans and Singalonga Wicker Man. As a half-hour extended TV sketch, all this would be fine, but over a full show, what is essentially an overblown theatre industry in-joke can’t really sustain the nonsense, even with Sally Reid dry-humping her way through Britt Ekland’s butt-slapping routine. While there’s a few choice one-liners amid the comic business, Reid and a cracking cast including Jimmy Chisholm, Rosalind Sydney and Hemphill himself seem at half-speed. As with its inspiration, if they’re going to kill their prey, they need to be as ruthless as they are when they murder Paul Giovanni’s original psych-folk songs. These are by far the best part of a show that tours to the Theatre Royal in Glasgow.
The Herald, February 23rd 2012 ends