Whatever you do, you do not want to miss the very first run of ‘Local Hero’, which debuts this month at the Lyceum. Adapted from the 1983 film written and directed by Bill Forsyth, Mark Knopfler has gifted the story with a fresh musical accompaniment that will bewitch audiences with the wild beauty of the Scottish highlands even as David Greig’s writing will leave them with a yearning for a simple place to call home.
In this unassuming story, the sleepy village of Ferness and its motley crew of inhabitants, is rocked by a crude disturbance, and I’m not talking about Rodney zooming past on his motor bike. An American oil company have flown out their best salesman, tasked with the challenge of purchasing an entire village, in order to build a belching oil refinery on the coast. Tensions run high in the community as everyone must decide what is best for the town, but more importantly, themselves.
The dialogue is witty and fast-paced, delivered by a wickedly gifted cast that perfectly emanates the familiar feel of a close-knit community. Each character is essential and eccentric in equal measure, subtly but hilariously proving the proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. Sitting in those red velvet seats, the pride for a humble yet fervent depiction of Scottish culture swells from the audience and fills the entire theatre.
Matthew Pidgeon dominates as a portent of uproarious laughter. His character Gordon oscillates between venturesome negotiator and small-town sex icon – his dancing is a sight to behold indeed. Meanwhile, Katrina Bryan’s exquisite voice will make your heart desperately ache as the stubborn but worldly Stella, torn between the calls of wanderlust and a tugging desire to settle down.
Besides the engaging and wonderful choreography by Lucy Hind, especially in ‘That’d Do Me’, what makes this musical so successful is its universality. At its core is the question ‘what does home mean to me?’ and this is explored through a production that is at once simple and yet wholly immersive.
Is Gordon right in saying that “places change, Stella, it’s the people you need to hold onto”? Or is it the transient and unruly landscape that gives form to its people? In a musical of caricatures that you would think proves Gordon’s point, you will be surprised and delighted to note the artistic detail of the set that will leave you breathless at the splendid views that are conjured into your mind.
And so, despite the seemingly dull subject matter, much like the isolated town of Ferness, ‘Local Hero’ proves to be a provocative, and stirring, and idiosyncratic production about the sky the sea and the earth, and the people found in between. It playfully gambols between play and musical but always returns to comedy, uniting all theatregoers regardless of their individual preferences. It was an utter privilege to be in attendance for the opening night of a production that will surely grow to stand the test of time as a beloved classic for all.
PHOTOS: Adam Pearce & Stephen Cumminskey