Brokeback Mountain adaptation finally hits London’s West End – and the verdict is in

West Side Story actor Mike Faist and Oscar-nominated Lady Bird star Lucas Hedges star as sheepherders Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar in west end stage production of Brokeback Mountain.

The West End adaptation of Oscar-winning queer Western film Brokeback Mountain has finally debuted, but the reaction is more lukewarm than hot and steamy.

In March this year, it was announced that BAFTA-nominated West Side Story actor Mike Faist and Oscar-nominated Lady Bird actor Lucas Hedges would star as sheepherders Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar, with Everybody’s Talking About Jamie director Jonathan Butterell directing the stage adaptation.

The story follows Jack and Ennis as they work together herding sheep on a mountain in Wyoming in the 1960s. After a night of drinking, the pair sleep together and swiftly develop a sexual and emotional bond.

Knowing how society feels about homosexuality, the pair suppress and keep their feelings a secret, with potentially devastating consequences. 

Considering the cultural impact of the original Brokeback Mountain, Annie Proulx’s bestselling 1997 short story, and the significance of the Oscar-winning 2005 film adaptation starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, expectations have been high for the stage version.

Now, the reviews are in for the stage show at @sohoplace theatre, and it appears that critics and viewers are conflicted.

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Mike Faist and Lucas Hedges in Brokeback Mountain
Mike Faist and Lucas Hedges in Brokeback Mountain. (Mark Seliger/Feast Creative)

Giving the stage production a two-star review out of five, The Independent praised the “fantastic” performances given by lead actors Faist and Hedges, but criticised the “frustrating approach” taken by the production as a whole.

According to the reviewer, the 90-minute stage version felt “rushed” and “clunky”, with the Americana songs performed by the band between scenes hampering the actors’ performances, and the overall sentiment of the story being turned into a “gay cowboy movie” cliché.

Another reviewer for City A.M. dubbed the stage version a “mixed success”, praising the “serene” atmosphere, but suggested that the two actors “lack chemistry”, particularly considering the “bizarre decision” to remove all signs of physical intimacy between the pair on-stage.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain
Jake Gyllenhaal starred in Brokeback Mountain with the late Heath Ledger. (Focus Features)

Other reviews were more favourable, with the Evening Standard praising it as “potent and subtle”, and commending the actors for their “impressive physicality”, “sexual chemistry” and “emotional nuance”.

In a glowing, five-star review, Broadway World applauded the “truly impressive” Brokeback Mountain set, “solid script” and ​​”deliciously tense atmosphere” created by the actors on-stage, while writer Nick Levine dubbed it “intimate, poignant, authentic, transportive”, with Faist and Hedges driving the production with “brilliant” performances.

Brokeback Mountain runs at @sohoplace theatre in London’s West End until Sunday 20 August.