Review: The Laramie Project

Great team work by Nash Theatre has resulted in a powerful and effective production of The Laramie Project.

The play begins with eight actors standing among eight chairs on a dimly-lit stage. Together they proceed to tell the shocking story of the 1998 fatal beating of gay university student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, in the U.S. state of Wyoming.

It is told through the eyes of Laramie’s citizens, recounting their reactions to the crime and how it affected them as a community while also explaining the impact the media had on their lives.

The way the actors bring the play to life is so natural, their characterisation so uncanny, that I found myself believing everything before my eyes.

The eight actors perform more than 80 roles between them. They are excellent at portraying diverse characters.

Aaron Bernard is a prime example: his rendition of the straight-to-the-point limo driver is so well done and adds some much-appreciated comic relief. But as soon as you’re used to him playing the limo driver he takes on the role of Matt Galloway, the eccentric bartender, a role he captures just as well.

Elizabeth Best is a standout. There isn’t a role she cannot play – her transition from a conservative minister’s wife to a gay university professor is just another exhibition of binary opposition when it comes to the characters played by one actor.

Director Dan Lane says he wanted this play to be actor-driven, and he succeeds in this but it’s obvious that he has pulled it all together very well.

With limited resources the costumes are good; changes are subtle and when not in costume the cast are in black – another testament to how well they are at humanising the characters and making the interview dialogues real.

The set is lit with a fantastic lighting arrangement from lighting designer Phil Carney. His design provides emphasis on characters when needed, and sets the tone for every scene.

The play was written by Moises Kaufman and members of New York’s Tectonic Theatre Project.

Nash Theatre 52 Merthyr Rd New Farm until 31 March

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