With a mix of the very clever, the very stupid and the very excellent film that IS The Wicker Man, Appointment With The Wicker Man is a fantastic blend of comedic performances, occasional tension and one or two inappropriate musical numbers changing the entire mood of the piece.
The whole premise for this show is set up for you as soon as you enter the venue and are handed The Programme (The Loch Parry Players Present The Whicker Man). Along with a synopsis of the main event, you can pore over the history of The Loch Parry Players, read bios of the latest line-up and also enjoy some local adverts printed on the back page (my particular favourite one being for the Loch Parry Singles "Meet at the NCP Car Park - every Thursday midnight").
Yes, it's a play within a play structure as you get to watch a comedy about The Loch Parry Players and their attempt to put on an impressive stage version of The Wicker Man. Sadly, nobody in the main cast has actually seen the film. One cast member got bored and switched it off before the end while another claims to have seen it and loved it and then mentions how much she loves Nicolas Cage. Things do not bode well for the production, especially with the company thinking that one or two more "Glee-like" numbers always help to rouse the audience they expect to be playing to. Things also seem to be looking bleak for newcomer Rory Mulligan (played by Sean Biggerstaff), a proper actor, he's been on the telly and everything, who becomes more and more tired of the amateur errors around him and also grows more curious about the mysterious disappearance of the actor he replaced, Roger Morgan. There are times when Rory can focus on playing Sergeant Howie and perform his search for missing Rowan Morrison but there are times when the lines blur too easily and Sergeant Howie/Rory starts to ask about the missing Roger Morgan.
If the above sounds a bit complicated then, at times, it is. But it's only complicated when you start to pick it all apart and look at the parallels between this play and the play within the play and the movie that it takes inspiration from. And when you do pick it all apart while watching the story unfold it provides plenty of rewards. It's very meta at times but it also has plenty of easy laughs, a superb cast giving great physical performances and a script that I would happily purchase in paperback form. And there are a number of tracks from the soundtrack of the movie used so if you're a fan of those strange and wonderful sounds, as I am, then that's another big plus.
Vicky Featherstone directs, from a script written by star Greg Hemphill and Donald McLeary, and the cast, as well as Biggerstaff and Mr. Hemphill, includes Jimmy Chisolm, Johnny McKnight, Sally Reid, Paul Riley and Rosalind Sydney. You may recognise a few faces or you may not but the only thing that matters is how they fit into their roles in this production and I can easily say that everyone is fantastic.
There's even an actual wicker man that makes an appearance, albeit one not actually made of wicker, and there's a finale that takes a number of twists and turns before turning in to a Grade A, full-on, crowd-pleaser. It's a shame that it takes a little while to get to the better ideas, and there are a few sideroads that just keep it from being a 5-star experience, but if you ever wanted to see a stage show that mixed The Wicker Man with The League Of Gentlemen with the "Once More, With Feeling" episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer then this is for you. I'm certainly glad that I kept my own Appointment With The Wicker Man.