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.”
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 →
HE is one of the UK’s most successful musicians. A legend. Yet writing songs for a new musical version of the beloved film Local Hero put doubts in the mind of even Mark Knopfler.
A surprise, perhaps. Knopfler, whose band Dire Straits sold millions of records, has also enjoyed a successful solo career after all.
Bill Forsyth’s 1983 film is finally being brought to the stage in the form of a musical, with new songs written by Knopfler, a story adapted by David Greig and Bill Forsyth, and directed by John Crowley.
He penned the soundtrack to the original film. Yet he admitted he was initially uncertain whether he could write songs for a musical.
Knopfler said: “It has got to have that theme in it, or it is not Local Hero is it? But I couldn’t just ape the film musically.
“I didn’t even know if I could do it, at all: and maybe I can’t, you may very well judge that.
“I really enjoyed doing it, I just found that – because I love the film so much and because I never stopped loving it, it moves me – it wasn’t too difficult to get into the characters.
As it turned out, the songs flowed, and along with instrumentals, including its famous plangent main theme from the original film, there are, according to Crowley “some heartbreaking ballads, and some very funny, character-sketch songs” in the show, which opens on March 23.
The musical, being produced by the Lyceum and the Old Vic in London, is set in 1983, and the plot follows the plot of the movie which sees conflicted Texan Mac visiting the Scottish village of Ferness to acquire it to build an oil refinery.
“The final script was so delightful to work with, so it was natural to be able to do that, and with the respect for the film that we all have, our approach was pretty much on the same page,” he said.
“I was dubious about being able to do it and I made a tentative start, but I found that the energy that got released on it was great, and the feeling, that initial energy and optimism was justified.
“Musicals aren’t my thing, so I was going to feel doubtful about it. It is great never to have done it before: if I was an old hand at musicals I would have started going wrong straight away.”
Knopfler, who was born in Glasgow in 1949 and moved to Newcastle when he was seven, revealed he drew on his Scottish childhood musical memories for the more than 20 songs he has written for the show, which will debut at the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh next month.
The production stars Damian Humbley as Mac, Katrina Bryan as Stella, Matthew Pidgeon as Gordon, the hotel owner, and Simon Rouse as oil baron Felix Happer, and there will be a live band on stage.
Knopfler, whose records have sold more than 100m copies, said putting the musical together had been “like a Rubik’s cube, but more complicated.”
He said: “Being a new boy, having never done anything like this before, it has been great. It is refreshing. You can make all kinds of fool of yourself, but I am just really glad I do not have David [Greig’s] job, it is much harder than it looks to make something that looks easy.”
Greig said: “The music takes in American music and elements of folk music, and just as a listener, there is something identifiable and particular as being very ‘Mark’ about it. You just know that they are Mark’s songs: it is quite hard to pinpoint what that is. It’s a very Scottish thing to have a bit of a foot in both sides of the Atlantic.”
Knopfler said that “the trans-Atlantic Blues” is a key feature of his music. He added: “I don’t think I could have done it otherwise. It is not too hard for me to find a way into Celtic music, because the first time I heard people singing music together would have been ‘Scotland The Brave’ or something, because my childhood was Glaswegian.
“I used to listen to records when I was very, very small, probably before I was two: I was listening to the radio and my mum singing. So it’s natural to me. So when people sometimes say to me: ‘How do you write that, or where does that come from, they sound a thousand years old?’ I think it is partly coming from Glasgow, and from being in Scotland, and from the north east, where my mother’s family is from. There are huge links between the Geordies and the Scots.”
Few Scottish films have so perfectly captured the appeal of the simple life than Local Hero, the tale of an American oil executive captivated by the beauties of a remote fishing village.
Next month in Edinburgh, half a lifetime after he wrote and directed the original, Bill Forsyth’s film is being transformed into a stage musical, one of the most anticipated productions of the year.
The show is built around 21 new songs from Mark Knopfler, the Dire Straits co-founder, who wrote the score for the 1983 movie, and is directed by John Crowley, whose 2015 film Brooklyn was nominated for three Oscars. Forsyth worked on the script with David Greig, artistic director of the Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum theatre. [ . . . ]