Something wicker this way comes...

Greg Hemphill is starring in 'An Appointment with the Wicker Man'
Greg Hemphill is starring in 'An Appointment with the Wicker Man'
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He’s probably best known as Victor in Still Game, but Greg Hemphill is currently enjoying his time touring some of Scotland’s best known theatres.

The man who brought us the laughs in the television sketch shows has now turned his hand to writing for the stage.

He has co-written the National Theatre of Scotland’s current touring production, ‘An Appointment with the Wicker Man’, with Donald McLeary.

And later this month, Fife’s audiences will be able to see the result when Greg and the cast bring the show to the Alhambra Theatre in Dunfermline from March 21-24.

Taking time out from rehearsals before starting a month-long run at venues around Scotland, Greg said it was both an ‘exciting’’ and ‘‘nervous’’ time.

“Comedy is very strange. We’re rehearsing the script, but we’ve got four weeks of doing the jokes over and over,” he explains.

“So they start to get a bit stale, but it’s our job to ensure that every time we perform they are fresh.”

The 1970s film ‘The Wicker Man’ is regularly featured among the lists of the best horror films of all times and this latest production from the National Theatre of Scotland has been described as “an all singing and dancing love letter to a unique and timeless cult masterpiece”.

‘An Appointment with The Wicker Man’ tells the story of the Loch Parry Theatre Players, who on a distant and remote Scottish island, mount a production of the film, but when their lead actor goes missing in mysterious circumstances they call on the services of a television cop from the mainland to step in and save their production.

“The National Theatre was talking about putting it on [The Wicker Man] but not sure whether to do a celebration or a straight adaptation of it,” Greg explains.

“We met with them and they asked Donald and I if we wanted to get involved.

“I think all the bits of the film iconology are all present and correct, but we’re trying to put on a skewed take.

“It is faithful to it in a strange way. People who know the film and even those who are strangers to it, will enjoy the show.

“Basically it’s the Loch Parry Players, an am dram company and they are putting on their production of it.

“It’s a play within a play really, so you get the story of the film and one of the Loch Parry Players’ plays.

“People keep asking me if it’s a mickey take of the film, but it’s not really. It’s a comedy and a lot of the humour comes from the Loch Parry Players - it’s their enthusiasm, ambition and their terrible ineptitude at putting on a show.

“Everyone in the cast that hasn’t known the film as well as others, have come to appreciate it.

“It’s no longer just a cult classic, but a British and a Scottish classic production.”

As well as co-writing the production, Greg is also starring within the play as Finlay, the man in charge of the Loch Parry Players.

“Finlay is a bit of a stick in the mud who wears golfing clothes,” he says.

“He’s inherited the role of being in charge of the group from his father who got

it from his father before that.

“He gives himself the big parts although he’s not particularly good.”

And among the other cast members are some known faces, including Greg’s ‘Still Game’ chum Paul Riley and Sean Biggerstaff, who played Oliver Wood in the Harry Potter films.

Greg told the Press: “The cast are such fun, amazing people. They are a great cast of actors and they are finding their characters and adding so much to the peformance.

“We’re all getting along great - you’ve got to with comedy. Everyone has to be brave and try stuff for a start. You can’t have a killjoy or dragnet, and in order for it to flow it can only work if everyone’s going in the same direction.”

This latest project may still involve comedy, but having made his household name through television sketch shows, how does writing a play like this compare?

He said: “It’s interesting and different as when we did ‘Chewin’ the Fat’ and ‘Still Game’ we were locked away in a room and wrote it and then the actors would get together and we would go through the sketches. This is a much more organic process.

“Everyone, the costume designer and music director, they have all contributed new ways of doing things.

“It’s much more of an ensemble than a TV sitcom where you have a military hierarchy.

“It’s much more fun this way as everyone is involved.”

And for the future, is play writing something he’d like to continue with?

“It would be great to do it again, and it would be lovely to do something else with the National Theatre,” he added.