Posts Tagged ‘Eddi Reader’

Annie Proulx’s short story has had an interesting trajectory over the 26 years since it was first published. There was Ang Lee’s award-winning film 8 years later, an opera another 9 years on, and now after another 9 years a play with music. You’d think the story of two men’s love for one another hardly radical 26 years later but its set in Wyoming, where things don’t appear to have moved on as much as in the rest of the world.

It’s set between 1963 and 1983. At the beginning, Jack and Ennis are in their early 20’s working as ranchers looking after sheep grazing in the mountain. When he’s not ranching, Jack has another life in the rodeo in Texas. Ennis has sweetheart Alma at home he’s planning to wed. Their relationship starts on a cold night when Ennis takes shelter in Jack’s tent. For a while they return annually and it continues and becomes stronger. Even when both are married with children, they meet up elsewhere under the auspices of fishing trips and the like.

It’s like any other clandestine love story. The love overpowers everything else and there’s just about nothing they can do about it. Their married lives continue, Ennis moving from job to job, just about making enough to feed his family, Jack funded largely by his father-in-law’s wealth. Communication between them is intermittent and the distance between them vast, but the relationship survives and continues until its tragic conclusion.

The in-the-round staging provides an intimate space in keeping with the story. There’s a live Americana soundtrack by Dan Gillespie Sells, whose score for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie was so good, with the wonderful Eddi Reader as a balladeer and a superb band of keyboard, double bass, pedal steel and harmonica led by MD Sean Green, who are key to the authentic representation of period, location and culture.

The chemistry between Mike Faist as Jack and Lucas Hedges as Ennis makes the relationship totally believable. Paul Hickey as an older Ennis is an onstage presence throughout, like a ghost, a silent narrator. Emily Fairn makes an auspicious professional stage debut as Alma. Jonathan Butterell’s staging and Tom Pye’s design both serve the story well.

I thought it was a bit slow at first, but once it takes off it draws you in. Though I’d seen the film, I was still gripped by the story, as if I was being told it for the first time, and I found the final part deeply moving. It’s impossible not to reflect on the homophobic murder of Matthew Shepard in that same state just a year after the story was first published.

Definitely one to catch.

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