Nosalgic escapism to the fore in stage adaptation of Neil Munro's popular sea-faring stories
It’s over a century since Neil Munro first regaled readers of the Glasgow Evening News with the adventures of Para Handy and his crew aboard the Vital Spark. John Bett’s stage adaptation (with original songs and music by composer Robert Pettigrew) aspires to bypass the TV adaptations and returns to the source material. Many of the performances, however, owe much to the 1965 BBC series.
As the eponymous ship’s captain, Jimmy Chisholm strikes a fine balance between stoicism and steadfastness, essaying the late Roddy McMillan. His later attempts to woo Mary Crawford provide much of the comedy and most of the whimsical plot.
Indeed, while the various stories are honed into slim vignettes, their frivolous nature neuters any sense of momentum.
What works on TV in half-hour episodes here feels stretched to breaking point and it’s a testament to the cast that they keep it afloat with infectious bonhomie. It would benefit from more judicious editing and a little more plot but fans of Para Handy from previous iterations will find much to like here, and as a piece of nostalgic escapism it certainly fulfils its remit.
Seen at Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Thu 13 Oct