Local Hero at Royal Lyceum Theatre review: ‘magic of Bill Forsyth’s film conjured up on stage’

Local Hero on stage

Joyce McMillan reviews Local Hero at the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh.

4 stars ****

A BIG SKY, a beach, a row of tiny houses along a harbour wall; and in the foreground, an old-fashioned red telephone box, glowing in the west highland dusk. Oh yes, it’s Local Hero – but this time not Bill Forsyth’s legendary 1983 film, but the brand new stage musical version, co-produced by the Old Vic in London and Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum, which celebrated its joyful, touching and – in the end – highly emotional world premier at the Lyceum this weekend. Continue reading

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Hero to Zero

Local Hero creator Bill Forsyth claims that he’s been dumped by the makers of a musical based on his film

Iconic: Peter Riegert, left, as Mac and Christopher Rozycki as Victor with Local Hero’s unlikeliest star – Pennan’s phone box

ITS blend of gentle humour and stunning scenery made it one of the most iconic films ever to come out of Scotland.

But the mastermind behind Local Hero claims he has been dumped from the upcoming theatre adaptation of his beloved movie – leaving him ‘in a state of shock’.

Bill Forsyth, the writer and director of the 1980s box-office hit, spent more than three years collaborating on the new stage version of his story, alongside playwright David Greig.

But the 72-year-old Glaswegian claims he has been told he should ‘cease to be actively involved’ in the highly anticipated project, due to open this month.

Local Hero, released in 1983, tells the story of American oil company executive Mac – played by Peter Riegert – who is sent to the fictional village of Ferness.

His mission is to buy up the place to make way for a refinery – but things do not go to plan when Mac ends up falling in love with the quaint village. The Ferness scenes – including those with the movie’s famous red phone box –were shot in Pennan, Banffshire.

Mr Forsyth won the 1984 Bafta award for direction for the film.

But he claims he has not been involved in the new musical adaptation of his Bafta-nominated screenplay since last year, when he was suddenly dropped from the creative team.

He said he has received only one email since then from Mr Greig.

The decision is said to have been made during a lunch with the musical’s producer, Patrick Daly, who had initially approached Mr Forsyth to help on the project.

Mr Forsyth – awarded a Bafta for his contribution to Scottish film in 2009 – told The Times: ‘What he said was, I should stop working on the musical and not be involved in any more workshops.

‘He [Mr Daly] said, “You can turn up with the execs and play an editorial part at the end of the process”, which I didn’t take to at all. They wanted me to step back, be a good boy and keep smiling. I left in a state of shock.’

The theatre production, which opens on March 23 at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, is the first time Local Hero has been adapted for the stage.

Former Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler – who composed the movie’s soundtrack – has created music for the stage show.

Mr Greig said he was ‘very sad’ to hear Mr Forsyth’s claims that he was being excluded.

He added: ‘I will immediately be getting in contact. We were expecting Bill to come to previews and to be offering thoughts and notes, and we were very much looking forward to welcoming him to the show.

‘I can’t stress enough that there’s so much of him in it, not just the original. He was a deep part of the drafting of the stage show.’

A spokesman for the Royal Lyceum Theatre Company said it was hoped that Mr Forsyth would attend the opening night show.

She said: ‘It’s a real privilege to work with Bill on bringing his beloved story, Local Hero, to the stage.

‘As Mark Knopfler developed a new score of 19 new songs, Bill Forsyth and David Greig worked closely together on several drafts of the script to ensure this transformation to the theatre retained the magic and essence of Bill’s film. As such, we are sad and surprised if he has felt in any way excluded from the creative process.’

The spokesman said that the musical’s director, John Crowley, and the entire stage play’s team had ‘always considered Bill’s voice to be central and integral’.

Without it, she added, any telling of Local Hero would simply not be possible.

The spokesman said: ‘Bill has been engaged with all script developments, and invited to attend each workshop and to all key rehearsal dates.

‘We sincerely hope Bill will be with us on opening night. The Lyceum and its partners would be so proud to share with him the experience of seeing his wonderful story in its new life on stage.’

‘They wanted me to be a good boy’

Bill Forsyth cut out of Local Hero musical 

It is one of the most eagerly awaited theatre productions of recent years but there will be one notable absentee at its world premiere.

Bill Forsyth, the writer and director of the film Local Hero, has said that he has been frozen out of a musical based on the film and will boycott the opening in Edinburgh this month.

Forsyth, who has spent the past three years collaborating on the show with the playwright David Greig, has been told that he should “cease to be actively involved” in the project.

A statement from the theatre said: “As Mark Knopfler developed a new score of 19 new songs, Bill Forsyth and David Greig worked closely together on several drafts of the script to ensure this transformation to the theatre retained the magic and essence of Bill’s film. “As such, we’re sad and surprised if he has felt in any way excluded from the creative process. “A world class creative team, director, designers and musicians have been assembled to create the show, all with Bill and Mark’s approval. “When a new stage show begins rehearsals, it is this team which forms and shapes it for the theatre. John Crowley, the director, and the whole team have always considered Bill’s voice to be central and integral. Without it, any telling of Local Hero would simply not be possible.”

Mark Knopfler: Bringing Local Hero to the stage both daunting and exciting 

By his own admission, Mark Knopfler is not big on musicals. But he will cop to a “soft spot” for West Side Story. “I fell in love with it when I was a little boy,” he says.

It’s a long way from the Upper West Side of New York to the upper west side of Scotland and the fictional yet wholly believable fishing village of Ferness, location of Bill Forsyth’s much cherished film Local Hero for which the Dire Straits mainman wrote the evocative and equally loved soundtrack. And yet, 35 years down the line, Knopfler has revisited that location for his maiden voyage into musical theatre, writing the music and lyrics for the much anticipated stage adaptation of Local Hero which premieres next month at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre. Continue reading