Review Roundup: What Did the Critics Think of Mike Faist and Lucas Hedges in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN?

The world premiere of Ashley Robinson's play with music, Brokeback Mountain, has now opened @sohoplace.

By: May. 19, 2023
Review Roundup: What Did the Critics Think of Mike Faist and Lucas Hedges in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN?
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The world premiere of Ashley Robinson's play with music, Brokeback Mountain, has now opened @sohoplace. Directed by Jonathan Butterell with songs by Dan Gillespie Sells, the show stars Mike Faist as Jack and Lucas Hedges as Ennis, both making their West End stage debuts.

Wyoming 1963: a wild landscape where people live in extreme rural poverty in tight, insular and conservative communities. When Ennis and Jack take jobs on the isolated Brokeback Mountain, all their certainties of life change forever as they flounder in unexpected emotional waters of increasing depth.

What did the critics think?

Abbie Grundy: BroadwayWorld: 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.

Sarah Crompton: WhatsOnStage: One moment Jack and Ennis seem to be strangers, the next - without much warning, or a sign of a spark - they are grappling (discreetly) inside a tent. The intimacy between them is established but not the depth of their affair over 20-odd years. It's a big ask for a play to establish that kind of arc, but Butterell's slightly frantic direction increases the sense of speeding along the surface and the device of having the older Ennis watching the action feels intrusive rather than illuminating.

Sam Marlowe: The Stage: Faist and Hedges are riveting: Hedges' Ennis almost vibrates with suppressed hunger and a jittery awareness of how dangerously transgressive, in a hyper-masculine environment, their love is; while Faist's Jack, more comfortable in his own skin, radiates volatile charisma. There is a fragile boyishness beneath the rugged toil and tough, terse talk. And the sex, often either followed or preceded by physical fights, is sensitively handled, from the initial bumping of boots in a tent to tender bare-chested clinches.

Fiona Mountford: iNews: There is an intoxicating quality of eloquent stillness to Jonathan Butterell's production of Ashley Robinson's play (his debut, incidentally, which is quite some way to start). In the interstices of the often wordless action comes Dan Gillespie Sells's music, which sits at the soulful end of country and in its yearning beauty conveys the emotions that the characters so often cannot.

Nick Curtis: Evening Standard: Whatever you've heard, it's not a musical. Dan Gillespie Sells has composed an evocative, country-inflected score that's performed live by Scottish singer-songwriter Eddi Reader and an onstage band, and which punctuates the 90-minute story. The ensemble of keyboard, steel guitar, bass and harmonica is pretty ravishing, and Reader's American singing voice is soused in loneliness and regret. The lyrics are the major let-down, a collection of clichés about windy peaks, lavender skies and howling coyotes meant to evoke the panoramic vistas that literature and film do better than theatre.

Clive Davis: The Times: What about the sex scenes, I hear you asking? They're more muted than in the film. There's a good deal of kissing, groping and a hint of nudity, including when Faist washes his nether regions with a cloth. But Butterell wisely confines the crucial first bout of love-making to a discreet fumbling in a tiny, lighted tent.

Bob Verini: New York Stage Review: Ashley Robinson’s take on Brokeback Mountain, now playing at London’s sohoplace, not only dodges the bullet of misbegotten stage adaptations of non-musical movies, but actually scores a couple bullseyes all its own. Fearlessly tackling still-green memories of Ang Lee’s iconic, even beloved doomed romance set against the great outdoors, the production directed by Jonathan Butterell finds new intimacy in Annie Proulx’s original story. Just as boldly, it offers lead performances from Mike Faist and Lucas Hedges that can stand without apology against those of Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger – different, but no less emotionally true.

David Finkle: New York Stage Review: The most innovative addition Robinson introduces is presenting this Brokeback Mountain as a memory play. The action is recalled in Ennis’s mind several decades on, Older Ennis played in almost complete silence by a moving Paul Hickey. He relives the initially torrid cowhands’ meetings and their eventual tormented later years, which are severed by an incident that deepens their societally doomed – surely in the Wyoming of those years – plight.

Brokeback Mountain is @sohoplace until 12 August 2023

Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan


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