Tag Archives: Adam Blanshay Productions

Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain





Brokeback Mountain

“Dan Gillespie Sells’ minimalist score is the pulse of the piece. The songs are an essential narrative. A mood board and a close-up lens.”


Let us begin with what “Brokeback Mountain” is not. It is not a musical, most certainly not a queer musical. Nor is it a flag bearer for the LGBTQ community. Ashley Robinson’s ninety-minute play with music, based on Annie Proulx’s deeply moving novella, defies categorisation. It simply rests on its own uniqueness, to be gently devoured by the watcher. Comparisons to Ang Lee’s 2005 feature film should be avoided. Jonathan Butterell’s production has a voice of its own, sometimes barely more than a whisper, but one whose effects will rise above a lot of the clamour in the West End.

The story is one of forbidden love, framed within the memory of an ageing Ennis Del Mar (Paul Hickey). We are invited to remember a time and a place where being gay could very well be fatal. We are in a scrubland of back-country homophobia that shapes the destinies of two home-grown country kids; ill-informed and confused but wading, ultimately drowning, in bittersweet longing. Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges plays Ennis Del Mar, fearful and quiet, and ‘not much of a talker’, as pointed out by Mike Faist’s brisk and breezy Jack Twist.

They meet in 1963, both hired hands on Joe Aguirre’s (the charismatic Martin Marquez) sheep ranch. Sharing roll-ups and campfire banter, their laddish camaraderie evolves into a drunken fumbling which, after insisting is a one-time affair, becomes a lifelong passion – detached from, yet destroying their respective marriages, families and their own sense of themselves. Their presence is quite magnetic, but the onstage chemistry is not always strong enough to express the deep sense of longing.

The full force of the emotional landscape is brought to us through the music. Dan Gillespie Sells’ minimalist score is the pulse of the piece. The songs are an essential narrative. A mood board and a close-up lens. Greg Miller’s yearning harmonica with BJ Cole’s pedal steel guitar fill the silences with an emotional depth the dialogue can only dream of. Sean Green’s restrained leitmotifs on the piano perfectly underpin the plaintive vocals. Eddi Reader’s voice has a gorgeous purity, scratched by a smoky rawness that echoes the spirit of the protagonists and guides us to their hearts.

The intimacy of the play is captured, too, in Tom Pye’s thoughtful design, drifting from canvas and campfires to the chipped furnishings of Ennis’ home. There the story reaches beyond the central couple shining a light on the sad neglect of Ennis’ wife, Alma. In a stunning stage debut, Emily Fairn subtly exposes the danger that her husband has put himself in. And consequently, the danger for herself too. At its core, “Brokeback Mountain” is a tragedy of two people having to keep their love hidden from the world. But the repercussions go further, touching each and all, which Fairn brilliantly emphasises. Similarly, backing singer Sophie Reid, in a heart-wrenching cameo as Jack Twist’s wife, Lureen, brings home the aching tragedy.

“If you can’t fix it, you gotta stand it” intones Jack Twist, more than once. Fortunately, since the time this is set in, society has ceased to stand it and started to try fixing it. Unfortunately, however, the play’s desolate ending is not something that is confined to history. “Brokeback Mountain” is an important piece of theatre. Compelling and tender. Powerful but fragile. Gentle yet hard-hitting. And quite unmissable.



Reviewed on 19th May 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Manuel Harlan



Recently reviewed by Jonathan:

How To Succeed In Business
Without Really Trying | ★★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse Borough | May 2023
Once On This Island | ★★★★ | Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre | May 2023
The Merchant Of Venice 1936 | ★★★★ | Watford Palace Theatre | March 2023
The Great British Bake Off Musical | ★★★ | Noël Coward Theatre | March 2023
The Tragedy Of Macbeth | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse Borough | March 2023
Ruddigore | ★★★ | Wilton’s Music Hall | March 2023
Killing The Cat | ★★ | Riverside Studios | March 2023
Cirque Berserk! | ★★★★★ | Riverside Studios | February 2023
David Copperfield | ★★★★★ | Riverside Studios | February 2023
Dom – The Play | ★★★★ | The Other Palace | February 2023



Click here to read all our latest reviews


What’s in a Name?


Theatre Royal Windsor & UK Tour

What's in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

Theatre Royal Windsor

Reviewed – 4th November 2019



“very funny with a great cast served up in a pleasing package”


What’s in a Name? In this case it’s the motor for an evening of smart, snappy comedy about a dinner party that spirals hopelessly out of control when a daft joke about a baby’s name leads to some devastating family revelations.

With over 100 productions since 2010 in 22 languages and 30+ countries, this play by Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre de la Patellière is big box office, with a string of awards to its credit. It’s also a successful film, under its French title Le Prénom. The five characters – a brother and sister, their partners and one secretive childhood friend – all get big moments in this tight ensemble piece that’s full of witty one-liners.

Joe Thomas (best known as Simon in E4’s The Inbetweeners) is the first on stage with a rapid commentary on the action that’s about to unfold. He gives a high energy performance as Vincent, a cocky, Daily Mail reading wide-boy who’s made a packet out of property. He’s a perfect foil for his earnest professorial brother-in-law (RADA-trained Bo Poraj, Mike in Miranda). Laura Patch turns things up a notch when she gets her own back on the sparring males, who are too busy arguing to pay attention to her struggles with the tagine. Alex Gaumond is a quiet trombonist who gets to spring the biggest surprise, to the consternation of the rest of the cast including the stylishly pregnant Summer Strallen as Vincent’s wife.

The home truths served up at this spicy dinner party gone wrong kept the audience amused last night, but was there any meat on the elegant bones? The production premiered at the Birmingham Rep in 2017 and is here directed, with a new cast, by its translator, Jeremy Sams. He’s anglicised a particularly Parisian text (everyone here knows Benjamin Constant’s 1815 novel Adolphe) that’s peppered with just the kind of philosophical wordplay that French intellectuals love. But he’s set it not in the 20th arrondissement but in a Peckham warehouse conversion. There’s more swearing and class differentiation than you’d expect among Parisian academics, and the play occupies a slightly uneasy space somewhere between Yasmina Reza’s Art and one of Alan Ayckbourn’s social satires.

What’s in a Name is very funny with a great cast served up in a pleasing package (a clever and satisfyingly detailed set by Francis O’Connor). But this light soufflé of a play ultimately left me wanting a bit more substance.


Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by Piers Foley


What’s in a Name?

Theatre Royal Windsor until 9th November then UK tour continues


Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Trials Of Oscar Wilde | ★★★★ | March 2019
Octopus Soup! | ★★½ | April 2019
The Mousetrap | ★★★★ | October 2019


Click here to see our most recent reviews