Brett Herriot Review

Local Hero, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

Local Hero, 

***** 5 Stars

“ The beating heart of Scottish Theatrical Creativity”

Bill Forsyth’s 1983 Bafta award winning motion picture “Local Hero” transformed Scottish cinema, for the first time Hollywood viewed Scotland as something more than tartan Tammie hats and shortbread and finally broke the mis held beliefs of films such as Brigadoon.

Now 35 years later, Forsyth has collaborated with Lyceum Artistic director David Grieg to write the book with acclaimed Musician Mark Knopfler (who created the original films album) delivering music and lyrics, Furness is back in a brand-new musical adaptation the is clearly the beating heart of Scottish theatrical creativity.

Local Hero tells the story of “Mac” an inspiring and finely nuanced performance from Damian Humbly an 1980’s Oil magnet executive working for Knox Oil of Houston Texas, he is sent to Furness in Scotland by his king pin boss “Happer” (the legendary Burt Lancaster in the film) played with consummate skill and talent by Simon Rouse. His mission is to buy Furness in order to set up an Oil Refinery and cash in on the 80’s Oil boom from Scottish Waters. Happer is also keen on getting his name on an asteroid comet and the clear skies of northern Scotland offer the best chance of that happening, Mac must keep in touch with Happer whilst buying the village from the locals. At its Heart Local Hero is tale of community, belonging to the environment around us and asks us what do we leave behind for future generations and is that worth selling out.

This musical adaptation is loving tribute to the film original and is engrossing from the off especially with Knopfler’s new songs managing to completely recapture the essence and style of the 1980’s whilst always tying in and furthering the story.

Both Humbly and Rouse form part of a 15 strong company of actors who are universally excellent bringing the villagers to life with ease, and the inherent comedy has the audience laughing form the off. Special mention must go to Katerina Bryan as “Stella” her voice is peerless  and to hear her sing vibrates around the lyceum is a moment of joy.

Director John Crowley has totally delivered us back into the 1980’s taking us back before the advent of mobile phones, the internet and where the art of communication is by GPO telephone box. He has done this by being joined in the production team by the very best from the creative industries. Tony award winning Scenic and costume designer Scott Pask has delivered a triumphant stage set that uses a massive cyclorama to great effect combined with Tony and Olivier award winning lighting designers Paule Constable’s work is a thing of rare beauty. Pask has also brought a detailed and accurate 80’s costume design to the show that’s flawless. The closing of Act 1 as the Northern Lights appear above Furness is a moment that sears into the memory and takes the breath away and reminds you just how good theatre can be when the boundaries are pushed beyond their limits.

Paul Arditti’s sound design is oft understated but peaks in the right moments with helicopters swooping over head and motorbikes screaming across the stage without the audience ever seeing either items its brilliantly done. Arditti’s work also ensures we hear the excellent 7-piece live band under the Direction of Phil Bateman. The band deliver Knopfler’s score with precision and its clear they enjoy every moment of being seen on stage especially during the wonderful ceilidh scene.

Local Hero deserves every one of its 5 stars and much like the film before it, this musical will transcend the art form of musical theatre, with witty script, uniformly excellent performances from the entire cast and a production element that can outdo many a west end show, this is a show that will live long in the memory.

As the curtain fell to the strains of Knopfler’s “Going Home” the audience rose to their feet in a standing ovation for just how brilliant a production they had just witnessed. The Lyceum doesn’t do musicals often but when they do, they change the landscape and showcase just why theatre matters. They tell the stories that engross and entertain and “Local Hero” can already take its place amongst the classics.

Do what you must to snap up a ticket and head for the Lyceum and be transported to Furness of the 1980’s it’s an experience you will never forget!

The Royal Lyceum Theatre and The Old Vic presents “Local Hero”, Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, Runs Until Saturday 23rd April for tickets go to: https://lyceum.org.uk/whats-on/production/local-hero

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