City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Local Hero, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Review

By Erin Roche - Posted on 31 March 2019

Show Details
Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and The Old Vic
Bill Forsyth (Book), David Greig (Book),Mark Knopfler (Composer and Lyrics), John Crowley (Director), Scott Pask (Set & Costume Design), Paul Arditti (Sound Designer), Luke Halls (Projection Designer), Lucy Hind (Movement Designer), Will Burton CDG for David Grindrod (Casting Director), Dave Milligan (Musical Supervisor), Phil Bateman (Production Musical Director), Guy Fletcher (Music Producer), Benjamin Holder (Assistant Musical Director), Maria Crocker (Associate Director), Eve Nicol (Assistant Director), Lynette Mauro (Costume Supervisor), Shirley Robinson (Costume Supervisor), Nicole Smith (Costume Supervisor), Marcus Hall Props (Specialist Props), Linda McKnight (Wig Designer), Lone Shacksen (Associate Designer), Rob Casey (Lighting Associate), Rob Bettle (Projection Associate), David Gallagher (Musician's Contractor), Ros Steen (Voice and Dialect)
Scott Ainslie (Ownie), Katrina Kryan (Stella), Caroline Dyega (Pauline), Julian Forsyth (Ben), Damian Humbley (Mac), Emmanual Kojo (Reverend Murdo), Helen Logan (Netta), Matthew Malthouse (Malky/Swing), Suzie McAdam (Shona/Swing), Joanne McGuinness (Rhona), John McLarnon (Iain), Adam Pearce (Viktor), Matthew Pidgeon (Gordon), Simon Rouse (Happer), Wendy Sommerville (Mistress Fraser), Phil Bateman (MD/Keyboard 1), Joseph Peach (Accordion/ Keyboard 2), Patsy Reid (Fiddle), Ross Milligan (Electric Guitar/Acoustic Guitar), Malcolm Macfarlane (Electric Guitar/Acoustic Guitar), Duncan Lyall (Bass Guitar/ Double Bass), Tom Gordon (Drums)
Running time: 

How can you put a value on something that is priceless? It’s like asking to count the grains of sand upon a beach. With a book by Bill Forsyth and David Greig and music and lyrics by Mark Knopfler, Local Hero, a new musical based on the 1983 film of the same name, centres around what is fleeting and what is lasting in life. A Houston oil executive specialising in “acquisitions” Mac Macintyre has been instructed to travel to a small Scottish small village to buy out the town for its perfect oil refinery conditions. Mac trades in the power suits and the perms of Texas for Ferness, where he swaps his electric briefcase for a brolly. The folk are colourful and charming, namely hotelier/lawyer/accountant/cab driver Gordon and his partner Stella. Mac was given another mission by the president of Knox find a comet. Mr. Happer can’t see one for the light pollution in Texas, and he’d like to put his name on that bright light in the heavens.

The story’s political parallels are so immediate to the present day appealing of corporate interests at the expense of our ecosystems and natural wonders, drawing comparisons to similar real-life efforts, such as Trump’s attempt at bulldozing special sites in Aberdeenshire for the purpose of an ultimate golf course. These parallels are obvious but not overstated; the story doesn’t paint a stark picture of American acquirer versus local lands protectors, but shows that there are very real reasons that the locals are attracted to the buyout, as evident in the (hilariously entertaining) ensemble number Filthy Dirty Rich. After all, life in a small village, with doubling up on jobs and making do with less, isn’t always easy.

The ensemble is truly a wonder with Local Hero. It is apparent that every character has their own story regardless of their stage time, and, when they all come together, it is as if you really are in the presence of the fully-realised town of Ferness. Matthew Pidgeon as Gordon is especially hilarious, a character that just comes alive. Damian Humbley as Mac is calculated and suave, and his development from starched and ironed to mesmerised and hopeful is a joy second to Humbley’s vocal chops. Ingenious set design by Scott Pask brings at once an overwhelming and quaint feel, itself a representation of the dichotomies in the show and a sense of being at the sea. A half-moon screen that hangs down over the stage shifts and alters with the sky and the stars, yet, there is a small-scale replica of the village of Ferness off to stage right; the houses light up to tell you where the townsfolk are and it gives you the sense of looking out onto the village from the other side of the bay.

This new musical could be one of the loveliest love letters to Scotland, speaking to the beauty of a land that is much more than "rocks and water". As the lyrics turn more pensive, the music turns more Celtic; when the lyrics focus on enterprise, the music sways more into 80s pop/rock. This is a musical that zigs when you think it will zag; it doesn’t depend on a romance line to move it along and, instead, digs its toes into clever writing, catchy and quirky dance numbers and electric chemistry. It has one of the most beautiful scores I’ve heard in the repertoire of musicals written in the past 10 years, especially with the impressively-voiced numbers by Katrina Bryan as Stella.

The piece is divided into notions of consumerism and sustainability, into what is now and what is forever. The stars and the sea have been long before us and they will continue on long after us, unlike the finer things this refinery could bring. In a world ripe with greed and quick payouts, this musical sings encouraging messages of conservation, migration and friendship. It’s about finding a home instead of a Filofax or a fancy car. It’s about the people who think they can buy even the stars and the people that can’t be bought. A masterpiece of the modern musical, beautiful and true.

Local Hero runs from 14 March to 4 May 2019
Evenings Tuesday-Saturday 7:30pm
Matinees from March 27, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2pm
For ticket prices and to book, please visit: