When a small town comes face to face with murder, everybody has a tale to tell...

Preview by Paul Nelson

COCHRANE Theatre and the Red Chair Players USA are to present the London premiere of The Laramie Project, an acclaimed, multi-award-winning production about a hate crime murder that shocked the world. This is the story of the people of Laramie.

On Wednesday, October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay college student at the University of Wyoming, was found lashed to a fence in the hills outside Laramie. He had been pistol-whipped, beaten and left barely breathing.

Matthew never regained consciousness and died five days later. His attackers, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, both Laramie men also in their early twenties, were already in custody. What followed was a worldwide media frenzy. The brutal death of Matthew Shepard forced the American public to address issues long swept under the carpet, Hate Crime and Homophobia.

Moisés Kauffman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project, traveled to Laramie a month later. Over the course of two years, they interviewed 200 townspeople and boiled down 400 hours of transcripts into the play involving 79 characters. The Laramie Project gives voice to every aspect about the brutal murder and its environment and asks could this be our town?

The Laramie Project is a thrilling and adventurous blend of story-telling, documentary journalism, and spellbinding theatrical showmanship. Thematically - culturally, socially, politically - it is monumental: an exploration of how we, as individuals and as members of a society, can find meaning in a world from which meaning is being progressively and systematically stripped away.

The Red Chair Players, Greenwich Academy Connecticut USA were winners of a coveted Scotsman Fringe First Award at the 2002 Edinburgh Fringe for their production of the play. They have reformed for this London premiere. This group of actors, so close to Matthew's age, bring a beautiful resonance to this powerful, effective drama.

The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project, Directed by Linda Ames Key. Presented by Cochrane Theatre & The Red Chair Players USA at The Cochrane Theatre, Southampton Row, London WC1. Tuesday, March 11 to Sunday, April 6 at 7.30pm. Thursday & Friday matinees at 2pm, Sunday matinee at 2.30pm. Tickets 020 7269 1606.

RELATED STORIES: The photo above is of Matthew Shepard. It is taken from a website devoted to his life, which also chronicles the story of his death and subsequent arrests and convictions. Click here for the full story...