REVIEW: BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN @ SOHO PLACE
🎭 Brokeback Mountain
📍 @sohoplace, 4 Soho Place, Charing Cross Road, London, W1D 3BG
🗓 Thursday 22nd June 2023
A BEAUTIFUL PIECE OF THEATRE
Written by Ashley Robinson, who is making his debut as a playwright, this world premiere of Brokeback Mountain is a bold reimagining of Annie Proulx's original short story.
This production reunites Dan Gillespie Sells as Composer with Jonathan Butterell as Director after their smash-hit success with Everybody's Talking About Jamie.
Presented at London's newest theatre Soho Place, this production is presented in-the-round and is epic in its simplicity. This is a play with music, which means that there is live songs performed by incredibly talented musicians, but the characters themselves do not sing. This is in no way a musical and is a million miles away from one.
The music is exquisite, both in its composition and in the performance. The music adds to the drama as well as smoothing over scene changes, reminiscent of how a score works in a movie. Eddi Reader has an absolutely stunning voice which sets just the right tone to match the action on-stage. She does step onto the main stage in act 2 to play a small role and is equally as good at acting as singing.
The concept is intriguing and works wonderfully. As you enter the auditorium, the Older Ennis is asleep on the bed. When he awakes we are transported into his memories and the action takes place between 1963 and 1983. The Older Ennis, portrayed by Paul Hickey, stays on stage throughout and watches the story play out alongside the audience. Although he doesn't have much dialogue, his presence adds a great depth to the play.
The lead protagonists are portrayed by Mike Faist as Jack Twist and Lucas Hedges as Ennis Del Mar who are both phenomenal in their roles. The way the two portray this story is simply stunning and they are obviously both masters of their craft. Sat in the audience I felt every single emotion as the story unfolded.
This is a raw and pure staging which doesn't shy away from the homophobia that plagued 1960's America. We see in great depth the struggle the characters have and the conflict created by one wanting to be open, while the other has tragically real fears for his life.
Emily Fairn shines as she makes her West End debut in Brokeback Mountain as Alma, the wife who struggles with her emotions as she discovers the reason why her husband is pulling away. Martin Marquez is also exceptional as he plays a trio of small yet essential characters.
Butterell's direction expertly utilises the space and never forgets that the audience surrounds the stage. At no point do you feel you're missing something or can't see what's happening, even if the action is happening on the other side of the performance space.
Married together with the best lighting design I have witnessed in a long time by David Finn and an inventive and clever set designed by Tom Pye, Brokeback Mountain is a real masterpiece that's not to be missed. Simply put, this is a beautiful piece of theatre and is perhaps the easiest 5 star rating I've ever given to a play. Expertly cast and produced, Brokeback Mountain is playing at Soho Place until 12th August 2023. Head to https://sohoplace.org/whats-on/brokeback-mountain to book tickets.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.
Mike Faist as Jack Twist; Lucas Hedges as Ennis Del Mar; Eddi Reader as Balladeer / Jack's Mother; Emily Fairn as Alma; Paul Hickey as Older Ennis; Martin Marquez as Joe Agguire / Bill / Jack's Dad; Sophie Reid as Lureen / Waitress / Backing Vocals
Sean Green - MD / Keys; BJ Cole - Pedal Steel; Greg Miller - Harmonica; Meelie Traill - Upright Bass
RUNNING TIME (approx):
95 minutes with no interval
This production contains partial nudity, gay themes and gun imagery