It's a big risk to take such an iconic, well-loved Scottish film and turn it into a stage musical. But Local Hero at The Lyceum is a triumphant, joyous and uplifting success.
From the start, sparse, simple staging and subtle washes of light create an intimate, evocative atmosphere, with earthy humour and a distinctly Scottish approach to money is highlighted. Author David Greig, co-writing with the Director of the original 1983 film Bill Forsyth, had a deft choice of characters, situations and dialogue to carry the story. So many episodes and one-liners echoed, nodded to, and went beyond the genius of the original.
A completely new score and lyrics by Mark Knopfler are delivered magnificently by live musicians and is complemented by gorgeous, confident vocal performances from an outstanding cast. There is celtic folk, blues, cabaret and rollicking rock. None of the characters really resemble those from the original - all have quite different appearances, and all fill the roles with new nuances. The character of Stella is drawn out and develops in particular in a different way to what many will remember from the big screen. And the motorcyle maniac Robby is very much present, but there only as an unexpected, loud, but entirely invisible presence.
Music, of course, pulls us through the story rather than images or action, and the motif of 'big oil' and the environmental subtext of the original is cleverly brought up to date through the now seemingly archaic sentiments in 'A Barrel of Crude' and the bawdy, bombastic 'Filty Dirty Rich' is delivered memorably by the entire company. There is a soft, elegaic quality to Mistress Fraser's 'I wonder if I can go home again' and the first act ends with the magnificent Russian vowel sounds of Viktor, drunkenly relishing the delivery of his mournful lament in 'Lone Star State'.
Stunning simplicity & iconic imagery
The second act opens with the aftermath of the ceilidh celebrated ironically with a hungover belting out of 'Never felt better' before Ben delivers his bombshell news in 'Cheerio, Away you go' to provide the crucial stumbling block to Ferness' dreams of riches. There's perhaps a covert political message for our times with 'Get a move on' before more elegy and reflection with Mac and Gordon's touching duet 'In an ideal world', ending with a show-stopping tango.
There's a quiet mastery in the way that elements such as Gordon and Stella's dancing weaves in and out of the story, and Mac's ridiculous electric briefcase and digital watch echo key scenes from the film, but they have an enlivened, strictly theatrical presence here that are stunning in their simplicity. In the same way, a simple shrug from Mistress Fraser, when asked about the origins of the unseen baby, answers his question and raises a laugh in the theatre in a quite different way to the laugh the film scene evokes.
The iconic phone box is there of course, and backdrop of a big, ever changing sky move and are lit superbly, and the sounds of gentle waves, or terrifying motorbikes, or a plaintive ring tone all work into a cohesive, deeply pleasing whole. The choreography of how the cast move in some of the big set pieces is masterful, and both costumes and props are understated, but just right somehow. And the idea of home, belonging, and loneliness, both for the residents of Ferness and, quite altered by his visit, for Mac, becomes a bigger, more central element on stage than in the film.
I don't want to single out any one performer for praise - they are all quite magnificent both individually, and as an ensemble. This is a fantastic melding of all the power of great musical theatre, and it is a credit to everyone involved in bringing this much loved story to the stage. Tickets are already a hot item, and deservedly so. Go and see this gorgeous, show - it will surely delight and uplift you, and wherever you call home, it will make you happy to be in Scotland.
5 stars ★★★★★
14 March - 4 May 2019 | Book Tickets
14 March - 4 May 2019 (Moving to Old Vic London later in 2019)
Running time: 2 hours and 45 minutes, including one 20 minute interval.
Tuesday - Saturday
MATINEES from 27 March 2019, 2pm
Wednesdays and Saturdays
Tuesday - Thursday: £18 - £58
Friday - Saturday: £20 - £68
Wednesdays: £16 - £46
Saturdays: £18 - £58
from £13, not available on Premium Seats