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The Laramie Project

Moises Kaufman
Cochrane Theatre
(2003)

There is a new theatrical genre developing, the docu-drama. The Tricycle Theatre did a good line in recreating court trials. More recently, Out Of Joint produced A State Affair at Soho while The Exonerated is doing well in the United States. Like all of these, The Laramie Project takes the words of those involved in a dramatic situation and playwright Moises Kaufman has synthesised them into a drama.

While this makes for good Theatre, much of the imagination that a good playwright can bring to an audience is lost if all he or she is able to do is use the words of others.

The Laramie Project tells the tragic tale of the death of a 21 year-old gay man, Matthew Shepard, in Laramie, Wyoming. In the past, this was known as the Wild West and sadly it seems that little has changed. This was a beautiful, gentle man seemingly loved by all for himself but hated by almost the whole of the community for what he was.

His murder was brutal in the extreme and the two young men who committed it then left him almost flayed alive, tied to a post for 18 hours before he was found and, four days later, died.

The Red Chair Players USA won a Fringe First at last year's Edinburgh Festival. They were then fresh out of school and most are now first-year university students. It is questionable as to whether it is reasonable to make allowances for uneven acting and directing in a London production from such a young company who are effectively amateurs. The production is very patchy although, in particular, Fred Sykes and Courtney Sutton showed great promise.

Despite these reservations, the play is extremely powerful and very moving. The impact that The Laramie Project must have had upon a redneck United States should have been tremendous. Apparently it was, although it is still terrifying to hear of similar acts of intolerance being perpetrated and condoned there to this day.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher