"why don't you go fuck a play" Boy George, by Twitter 18.7.2012

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Throwback Mountain

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Funny how words take on new meanings. ‘Lockerbie’ used to be a tiny hamlet in the West of Scotland before a PanAm plane came down in its fields, ‘Columbine’ was once an average high school … and ‘Laramie’ was an enormously popular 100-episode TV western in the black-and-white era.

Nowadays Laramie is irrevocably connected with the brutal torture and murder by two rednecks of flyweight gay student Matthew Shepard, beaten and left for dead tied to a fence outside the Wyoming town on the night of 6 October 1998. His death led directly to the hate crimes legislation finally enacted by the Obama administration last month.

When planning a London run, Wild Oats Productions couldn’t have known the awful timeliness of this revival, shadowing the homophobic assault on Ian Baynham, kicked to death in Trafalgar Square and for whom the London gay community turned out in their thousands for a vigil three weeks ago.

The Laramie Project is a kinetic theatre piece based on verbatim interviews with the local population in the days and weeks following Matthew’s murder, covering news reporting, police investigation, trials and a portrait of a close-knit community wrestling with its collective and individual consciences. Eleven years after the event it has an immediacy and a freshness which had every member of the audience wholly engaged, whilst staying the right side of sensationalism or mawkishness. The structure of Joseph C. Walsh’s production is elegant and fluid, and the ebb and flow of 75 distinct characters is handled with incredible skill by a tight team of just 8 young actors.

It’s hard to single out individual performances but among a very focused and committed ensemble, Adam Unze’s doubling of the callow barman who served Matt his last drink, and both of the perpetrators is indicative of a highly developed talent, Francis Adams‘ speech to the jury as Matt’s father held the audience in total stillness, and Amy Clarke‘s ability to switch from glamorous sophisticate to backwoods grandma by the mere donning of a beret (not to mention becoming a dead ringer for Glenn Close every time she put it on) was outstanding.

There is no higher recommendation: for all the important reasons you go to the theatre, it’s a ‘must-see’.

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