Brokeback Mountain

Annie Proulx’s short story Brokeback Mountain was first published in 1997, and a hit film was made in 2005. Now it has been turned into a play by Ashley Robinson with music by Dan Gillespie Sells at London’s newest West End venue @sohoplace.

The two of them had great chemistry.

Mike Faist and Lucas Hedge take on the lead roles of Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar and I was pleased to see that the two of them had been able to put their own stamp on these characters who are so associated with the award-winning actors that played them on the big screen.

Mike Faist brought a youthful exuberance and boyish charm to the somewhat tough exterior of Jack Twist. His yearning to break free of the constraints of the traditional ‘expected’ life was both earnest and tender. Lucas Hedge, as Ennis, was full of confusion and self loathing at his feelings for Jack. He had a nervous energy to him throughout, as if he was about to get caught out in his lie at any moment. The two of them had great chemistry and it was clear that the opening scenes had been a fun and creative way for the two of them to explore their relationship.

Throughout the show the older Ennis, played by Paul Hickey, watches on with the rest of the audience. His presence was palpable but he always felt tacked-on and was sometimes more of a distraction rather than to provide any extra layers to the story. Emily Fairn is captivating as Alma. It is a tricky role due to the limited time she gets compared to the leads but as soon as she is on stage you can’t help but get drawn in to her story.

The last piece in this jigsaw is Eddi Reader as The Balladeer. She sits with the band just off to one side throughout the show. The music used is very evocative of the time and period, as well as the film. Her soaring vocals take the audience members on a journey. Dan Gilliespie Sells, who wrote the music, describes The Balladeer as the ‘story’s soul’ and the show is definitely better off for her and Gillespie Sell’s contributions. The Mountain Theme particularly stuck out to me as a treat to hear.

Brokeback Mountain is directed by Jonathan Butterell who really brings out the best of his cast. The performances are vivid, and not reduced to caricatures. The show has been staged in-the-round and although it sits nicely in the auditorium it sadly means that everything is very static and that the breadth and scope of Annie Proulx’s novel is lost as characters come and go, but nothing can portray the rugged wild mountains and lakes of the story. Ton Pye’s set design is clever and utilises as much of the space as possible. The fireplace and bed being key moments of several story locations.

Overall, this was a very good production of a difficult story. The short scenes needed to portray a story that covers many years in an hour and half makes it a difficult production to pull off. We yearn for longer scenes with these characters. I also wish there was a bit more collaboration with the different elements of the show. We had The Balladeer stuck out to one side, and Older Ennis lurking around the stage while the characters lived out the show. I wanted some more times where they interacted, though the few small moments they did have were done well. If you loved the film you will enjoy this production, and the performances are a treasure.

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Reviews by Christopher James

@sohoplace / Soho Place

Brokeback Mountain

Duke of Yorks Theatre

Shirley Valentine

Harold Pinter Theatre



Only An Octave Apart

57-60 Haymarket


Queen Elizabeth Hall

Briefs: Bite Club


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The Blurb

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. Dan Gillespie-Sells beautiful Country and Western songs weave heartbreakingly through this intense tale of an unresistible and hidden love spanning twenty years and its tragic consequences.

This is a play with original music by Dan Gillespie Sells, performed by the extraordinary singer, Eddi Reader, joined by her onstage Country and Western band: Sean Green (piano/MD), Meelie Traill (upright bass), Julian Jackson (chromatic harmonica), BJ Cole (pedal steel guitar).  

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