I loved this production as soon as it started. The opening scene is powerful, simple, strong, eerie and gave me goosebumps…I was hooked. And if I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting to be…
Originally a Western starring John Wayne, James Stewart and Lee Marvin, I couldn’t work out how, in a space as dinky as the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park, Jethro Compton was going to adapt the story to the stage…where would the horses go? Would there be sound effects? And the vistas! Where would the vistas go? Would there be some kind of dirt track projection? With rickety wagon sound effects? How how how how HOW?
But cor, has he come up with something clever. I was blown away.
I’m sure many of you have seen the film, but for those of you who haven’t, I won’t ruin it for you.. so in brief, the story follows a young scholar from New York City, named Ransome Foster. He is traveling in search of a new life and somehow arrives beaten and half-dead on the dusty streets of a small Western town called Twotrees.
The town soon becomes his home – he meets a girl (sigh), he finds purpose in teaching a young black man to read (hero) but things don’t run smoothly (obvs.) There’s love rivalry, (and Burt has a bigger gun) a terrifying incident with whisky and hot sauce.. oh, and a vicious outlaw who wants him dead. He must make the choice: to turn and run or to stand for what he believes, to live or to fight… to become the man who shot Liberty Valance. (You see, that’s where the title comes from. Clever.)
This is a tale of love, hope and revenge set against the vicious backdrop of a lawless society… and the exceptional cast and creatives have done it proud.
The staging is simple but perfect, set entirely in Hallie’s saloon. And the cast are completely fabulous. Special shout outs to Oliver Lansley, who played Rasome Foster, Niamh Walsh, who played the feisty and stubborn pocket-rocket Hallie Jackson, Paul Albertson as Bert Barricune, Lanre Malaolu as Jim Mosten and finally, James Marlowe, who played Liberty Valance and scared the bejesus out of me. (Actually stared at my feet for about 10 minutes at one point as I thought it best not make eye contact. You know, just in case.)
The production also features the legendary voice of Robert Vaughn, who you may know from The Magnificent Seven, The Man From U.N.C.L.E and BBC’s ‘Hustle.’ His gentle narrative voiceover truly added to the whole atmosphere and warmth of the production… an inspired addition, I thought… here’s a sneaky preview…
I was so impressed with this production – everyone in it is top notch and I’m thrilled for them. It’s gripping, full of tension, exciting, terrifying, powerful, very witty in places and, most importantly, it’s a wonderful story.
Please go and see this – it’s the blimmin’ World Premiere and it’s in little ole Finsbury Park.
Lucky us in London, eh?
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Runs until 22nd June
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “The characters are believable, the acting ridiculously good. Every pause, raise of an eyebrow, touch of a brow brims over with meaning and tension. [The play] will have you perched on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.” The Upcoming
★ ★ ★ ★ “Superb. A genuinely gripping drama and one I warmly recommend” Telegraph
“Ingeniously rework[ed]. The seven strong cast is excellent.” The Stage
“An enjoyable night of theatre with a set of fine performances, and will surely enjoy a popular run at the lovely Park Theatre.” A Younger Theatre
“A consistently absorbing, often moving and very unusual evening of theatre.” The Public Reviews