BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN | London, @sohoplace

This new “play with songs” adaptation by Ashley Robinson, directed in the round at the newly-opened @sohoplace by Jonathan Butterell, breathes new life into a classic story. The cowboys don’t sing to us, but a mysterious balladeer (Eddi Reader) does, from the shadows, and on the radio.

Brokeback Mountain was first written as a short story by Annie Proulx in 1997, but is best known to us as the Oscar-winning 2005 film adaptation, directed by Ang Lee. In the round, with only the audience’s eyes for a backdrop, this stage adaptation brings to the fore Ennis’ underlying anxiety about the danger of always being watched.

Though we follow the forbidden love between two male ranch hands, Ennis (Lucas Hedges) and Jack (Tony-nominated Mike Faist), it is Ennis’ longsuffering wife, Alma (Emily Fairn), who is the heart and soul of this production. Though having produced two children together, the couple’s sexual conflict is painfully well-observed, as is her slow journey towards dealing with a lifetime of hurt and anger.

Dan Gillespie Sells is best known as the frontman of The Feeling and the writer of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (2017). Despite his English roots, this play’s original country music score is so convincing, the songs sound like classics. It’s not better than Gustavo Santaolalla‘s Oscar-winning score, it’s just different. Same goes for the whole production.

Playing at @sohoplace 10 May – 12 August 2023.

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