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Review: BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, @sohoplace

Mike Faist and Lucas Hedges star in this stunningly powerful production.

By: May. 18, 2023
Review: BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, @sohoplace  Image
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Review: BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, @sohoplace  ImageIn 1997, author Anne Prolux penned Brokeback Mountain, an enduring love story between two ranchhands in rural Wyoming at a time when they simply weren't free to live openly.

The perils of a society too ignorant to see the beauty of real love makes for a story fraught with emotion, tenderness, and heart - the kind that continues to resonate with audiences in 2023.

While the romance shared between Ennis (Lucas Hedges) and Jack (Mike Faist) was immortalised by the Academy-Award Winning film of the same name, it takes on an entirely new life on the stage in a stunning production directed by Jonathan Butterell.

As audiences step into the auditorium @sohoplace, they're transported from central London into the sparse Wyoming mountainside, where set designer Tom Pye has paid attention to every detail. From crackling fires, where Ennis and Jack prepare their daily meals, to the rustic and rusty kitchen, where Ennis' wife is left to raise their children - it's a truly impressive set that only serves to heighten the sense of intimacy shared between the audience and the actors on stage.

Much like within the original text, so much of the story relies on what is not said rather than what is - and the weight of the secrets and pain shared between the different characters on stage lingers throughout, creating a deliciously tense atmosphere.

The show is a success for many reasons, from a solid script from Ashley Robinson and a score from Dan Gillespie-Sells; however, each and every performer on stage acts with poise and heart, and this is what sells the story.

Mike Faist is charismatic and endearing as Jack, able to shift from a young man filled with childish naivety and dreams one moment to a man who never got what he wanted with fluidity and ease. He is partnered fantastically by Lucas Hedges as Ennis, who is often led by thought rather than emotion, making for a performance where every word or action is considered and purposeful. They share a chemistry that crackles rather than sparks - it's rough and raw - and they manage to convey this within every single scene.

So much of their intimacy is private - both within the world they live in and within the stage - often hidden and obscured from view. This is a remarkable piece of intimacy direction from Tommy Ross-Williams, who was able to build upon the chemistry the two actors shared to create something truly beautiful.

Paul Hickey also gives a powerful performance as an older Ennis, showing a unique talent in that he can say with a single micro-expression something many people would struggle to convey in 1000 words. Emily Fairn, in her stage debut, is quietly endearing and sweet as Ennis' wife Alma, a woman whose own love story is taken away from her.

Throughout the production, the scenes are accompanied or underscored with atmospheric music from a live band, with Eddi Reader stepping in as the balladeer - which seems like an apt callback to the cinematic history of the story.

In short, Brokeback Mountain is a powerful and enticing production - the kind that tugs on your heartstrings with its sincerity. While stories of this nature can sometimes slip over the edge into cliches, meaning that some of the initial substance is lost or glazed over, this never happens here.

It is also an incredibly timely production. While society has come a long way in terms of tolerance and acceptance, there was a record increase in reports of homophobic hate crimes in the UK in 2022 - and this seems to echo overseas, too. As such, Brokeback Mountain is a story of enduring love that speaks to the need to love openly and freely - and if there's anything the world needs, it's more love.

Brokeback Mountain is at Soho Place until August 12.

Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan


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