By Moises Kaufman and The Tectonic Theater Project
Directed by Gary Abrahams
With Paul Ashcroft, Ella Caldwell, Brett Ludeman, David Whiteley, Terry Camilleri, Kim Gyngell, Emily Thomas, Rosie Traynor & Hester van de Vyver
Set: Peter Mumford
Lighting: Katie Sfetkidis
Costumes: Yunuen Perez
Stage Manager: Colleen Jeffery
Assistant Stage Manager: David Baker
Matthew Shepard was a young, gay man murdered in Laramie, Wyoming, in 1998. He was tied to a fence, severely beaten and left to die on the windswept prairie.
The Tectonic Theater Project originally visited the town of Laramie in the crime’s aftermath, keeping journals and conducting interviews, eventually creating a documentary play. Ten years on, they returned for a companion piece.
What they found was disturbing, but not unhopeful. Homophobia is a demon not easily exorcised. More than 60 characters appear – including the theatre group, Matthew’s parents and friends, the police, the murderers themselves. All raise vexed questions about individual responsibility, and how it shapes public history.
The Red Stitch production, directed by Gary Abrahams, is a must-see. A large ensemble cast gives an acutely claustrophobic sense of an entire community on stage.
Abrahams directs the first half with disorienting pace, poised choric effects, and marshals many superbly acted cameos.
Kim Gyngell as Matthew’s father gives an aching portrayal of male grief, though there are too many fine performances to list. Peter Mumford’s design – modular panels constantly rearranged by the actors – adds a visual metaphor for the constructed nature of history and strips itself of theatrical illusion, handing the story over to us.
Cameron Woodhead, The Age (02/05/11)
The sequel to The Laramie Project is a cooler, less sentimental affair than the original, but it has an urgency every bit as righteous and indignant. Instead of reporting the murder of a young gay man, the sequel combats the degradation of the moral of the story. Just as one of Matthew Shepards’s killers now rationalises his act by claiming the 21-year-old victim was a sexual predator, wider America would rather believe Shepard’s death was a result of a drug-fuelled robbery than a hate crime.
Gary Abraham’s busy and determined production papers over the odd imperfection and acting from the cast of nine (especially Paul Ashcroft and Emily Thomas) is scintillating.
Another impressive and unmissable Red Stitch production.
Chris Boyd, The Australian (03/05/11)