By Neil Durham
WORTH A LOOK?: ****1/2
WHEN?: Wednesday 10 May, runs until 12 August 2023
Songwriter Dan Gillespie Sells and director Jonathan Butterell have reunited after the success of musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie to create something quite understated, haunting and beautiful with their take on Brokeback Mountain.
- Read on for reasons including how it is former Fairground Attraction frontwoman Eddi Reader who steals this show
Annie Proulx’s short story Brokeback Mountain was originally re-imagined as a 2005 film that went on to Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe success starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in its tale of 2 ill-matched cowboys working together herding sheep on the titular site in 1963 in Wyoming.
It’s not a place or time renowned for tolerance of their forbidden love and this memory play charts 1 of the pair’s take on this unlikely romance.
Gillespie Sells from band The Feeling has brought a score of songs to the story performed by an onstage band including former Fairground Attraction frontwoman Eddi Reader which embellishes the Country’n’Western setting of the material.
The show’s best song Sharing My Heart (watch below) has been released on social media and comes at a particularly emotional highpoint two-thirds of the way through the show.
It’s country in style but reminded us of Jamie’s mother’s 60’s-influenced Dusty Springfield-style numbers from Talking About Jamie which is a huge thumbs up from us because that show and later film won multiple monstagigz awards, or monstas, from our readers.
A nice touch is that some of the songs are recorded and play as if through a radio in a bedroom onstage and there’s 1 neat trick when 1 song switches midway through which links the action we are seeing on stage perfectly with the music just to 1 side of it.
Reader also takes to the stage to play rodeo cowboy Jack Twist’s mother during a scene when the grieving Ennis del Mar (Hedges is a revelation moving from almost wordless masculinity, choosing a lifestyle he can never fully enjoy to a ghostly haunting presence) calls to visit unexpectedly.
Faist (film West Side Story) makes his West End debut and has the showier role as the more confident lover always wanting more from Ennis and prepared to push boundaries when that feeling is not fully reciprocated.
We saw this play with music on its 1st preview and world premiere and return again next week because it’s a story we feel particularly connected with.
We’re clearly not alone because at this 1st preview from about halfway through we could hear stifled sniffles and people struggling to hold back tears because it’s a production which remains faithful to the devastating conclusion of the short story.
Special mention also to Emily Fairn as Ennis’ wife Alma who really engages our sympathy as a woman caught in a marriage with a man who is being unfaithful to her and yet can’t bring himself to tell her the truth.
Brokeback Mountain was always a terrific story and here is enhanced by some atmospheric music which is subtle and never intrusive and left our eyes stinging with tears at the show’s devastating close.