Local Hero review: Script laced with sharp comedy seldom falters

The stage musical version of Local Hero has been acclaimed by critics. (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
The stage musical version of Local Hero has been acclaimed by critics. (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
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Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero has achieved cult status since its release in 1983, so the world premier of the stage adaptation, a musical no less, was always going to be a major date on Scotland’s theatre calendar.

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Royal Lyceum, Grindlay Street

Forsyth himself may not have been in attendance at Saturday’s official opening, but previously reported artistic differences appear to have been put aside with Lyceum Artistic Director and co-writer of the stage show, David Greig, reportedly assuring guests at the after-show that Forsyth would attend later in the run.

His take on the production will be interesting. Having managed to avoid the film for the past 36 years, no comparisons will be drawn in this review, which is as it should be with a new piece of work.

Despite its universal theme of environmentalism, more relevant today than ever, this Local Hero is a light piece of work and all the better for that.

When Knox Oil in Houston sends Mac to the small Scottish village of Ferness, the preferred site for its new oil refinery, two worlds collide.

His job is to buy the village and its beach, a project which leaves locals dreaming of being rich and pitches Stella and Gordon, the local hoteliers against each other. Will the lure of lovely lucre win the day and allow the destruction of the natural beauty they all take for granted? Or will Mac have an epiphany?

Catchily scored by Mark Knopfler, the songs are 
occasionally quaint, but stand-outs include Rocks and Water, a beautiful ballad sung with great sensitivity by Katrina Bryan who, as Stella is the heartbeat of the production. Bryan gives a perfectly nuanced performance and is simply captivating to watch.

She has strong support from Damian Humbley as Mac, Matthew Pidgeon as Gordon, Julian Forsyth as Ben and Simon Rouse, doubling as Happer and Duncan. The rest of the ensemble is tight throughout, working especially well on big “dance” numbers choreographed with quirk and stomp by Lucy Hind.

Scott Pask’s clever yet sparse set design combines simple settings with vivid video projection to imaginatively create the wide open spaces of rural Scotland. Laced with sharp comedy, Forsyth and Greig’s concise script seldom falters, though towards the end of Act One the action begins to drag, while in Act Two the resolution falls into place a little too quickly and easily. That said, this production is a cut above most home-grown productions with a cast of the calibre seldom seen on the Scottish stage.

Run ends 6 May