The Laramie Project Theatre Review
On the 27th February 2020, we went to watch a play at the Bristol old Vic called the Laramie Project which was written in the year 2000 by Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre but it was performed by the Bristol Old Vic theatre school. Prior to seeing this production, we had little context and did not know much about Matt Shepherd. However, after we did some research, I begin to have some expectations of what we were going to see. In addition, after we had done some research, I started to have expectations that it was going to be about Matt Shepherd and the night of the attack. Also, I thought that the performance space was going to be a lot bigger than it actually was. I was also really surprised that the stage they actually performed on was as flat as it was and that we were on the same level as the performers.
The population of Laramie, Wyoming is 26,687. I feel that this is really significant to the performance because the play actually opens with the performers coming together on the stage to make a scattered collection and they crouched together, which felt like they knew and were comfortable which made it feel like they were a community, and they then stood and began talking about themselves and their community. As the audience we began to realise that these people were the people of Laramie. On October 6th,1998 matt shepherd was attacked, he died six days later in hospital. When he was attacked Matt shepherd was 21, he died two weeks before his 22nd birthday. Something that I found out was that he was openly gay, which I believe that it was a motive for the attack.
There were so many incredible actors that performed on the stage when we went to go see “the Laramie project” but one I think that stood out from the rest was Esmee Cook, she played many characters but the one I enjoyed watching the most was when she played Marge Murray. Whenever she would come onto the stage playing this character, she would fill the space, She did this through the use of gesture and body language. I felt that her body language was very masculine, this is because she sat back into herself and had her hands on her hips/belt. As for her use of gesture she used sharp controlled movements and a wide leg stances.
When I first thought of the lighting for “the Laramie project” I thought that it be the same all the way through - a white coloured light pointing at centre stage – however, my view was challenged from even before the play started. As we walk in and sat down, I noticed that the room was being lit by a dim yellowish light, this made the room look a lot darker and even a bit spooky. Furthermore, there was a scene in the play where there was a lot of news reporters in the town and I think that they wanted us as the audience to feel the stress that the town felt at that time. In addition, they made us feel this through the lighting as the reporters talked the lights flashed white it made it look like the flash of a camera. As I reflected on the play, I realised that throw most of the play I felt the lighting really set the mood for me.
As we were walking into the theatre I noticed that we had to walk across the stage to get to are seats and that the stange was all one level, this would be called a thrust stage but in a studio set up as it was quite small and people sat around the stage but not all the way around. As the play started, I noticed that we were literally siting on the stage, this made me feel like I was part of the performance (I even had to move my feet a couple times). In a couple of the scenes, they used this project at the back of the theatre - behind all the actors – to project the sky onto and I don’t really understand why they did that but ever it came on it would be when someone was giving a powerful speech or something like that.
Walking out of the theatre, I was bombarded with emotions...i didn’t know what to think. I felt guilty, like I was the one that killed matt shepherd but then I also could not stop thinking about everything that had been brought up in the play. I had so many questions. Honestly, I just wanted to curl up in a ball and cry because “the Laramie project” being a verbatim theatre production I didn’t get the chance to cry. I went into the play thinking this was going to be about Matt Shepherd and the night of the attack, I was shocked when I realised that it was about matt shepherd’s legacy on Laramie and everything that the murder revealed about the people of Laramie's mindset towards homosexuality. I also thought that the play was going to start with the attack, but my expectations were wrong. It didn’t start with attack. There was not ever a Matt Shepherd character in the play.
I think “the Laramie project” was a really good piece of theatre, I feel this was because when you go to some plays you sit in the theatre, you watch the play then you leave and never really think about it again. Whereas, in “the laramie project” there were moments of the play that I thought about beyond siting in the theatre. One of those moments, was when they announced Matt Shephard dead, I knew it was going to happen but watching the pain and grave on everyone’s face in that scene was heartbreaking. Furthermore, another moment that really stuck in my head was when Sargent Fluty told the audience that there was a high risk that she may have contracted HIV from Matt Shephard. I loved this scene because you had her mum (Marge Murray) on the other side of the stage and there were both shouting and talking about the same thing but it was like there was an invisible wall between them. In conclusion, I think many people could learn a lot from this play and I would happily go and see it again.