New staging brings the iconic 1983 movie’s themes and characters into sharper focus.
Review by David Kettle
“Cult” is probably an over-used adjective, especially when it comes to movies. But there’s undoubtedly something truly special about Bill Forsyth’s 1983 film – about a Texan oil executive on a mission to buy up a section of the Scottish coast for a vast new refinery, only to end up falling in love with the place – that makes it so warmly cherished by certain viewers.
Maybe it’s Local Hero’s disarming mix of laid-back whimsy and harder drama, its unapologetic sentimentality, its surreal eccentricity, its gentle humour. Or maybe it’s the movie’s ironic role-reversal, as villagers grow impatient to plunder their new-found wealth while the swaggering incomer grows ever more enraptured with the place. It’s a mix that’s undoubtedly helped by Mark Knopfler’s evocative original score, whose guitar theme “Going Home” alone can transport you straight back to the ramshackle charm of Ferness and its iconic phone box.
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 →
Local Hero creator Bill Forsyth claims that he’s been dumped by the makers of a musical based on his film
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.’