FRINGE 2017: THEATRE – Late: A Cowboy Song – Tuxedo cat – 4K

It’s likely that a pretty low percentage of people are still in a relationship with their childhood sweetheart fifteen, or twenty, years later. Mary and Crick are in that minority. They’ve been together since they were eight; an arrangement that seems to have been maintained by his utter bliss with his role as the stay-at-home partner, and her desire not to rock the boat, or perhaps lack of acknowledgement that there are any other viable options.

We enter their narrative just as lateness, in two forms, is about to have a major impact on this couple. One form is the usual chronological one, and is the result of the rekindling of an old friendship by Mary with Red, a peculiar girl from her high school days, who is now a cowboy. The other is a new chapter in the couple’s life in the form of a child; a child who throws up some unusual challenges, not least of which seems to be Mary and Crick agreeing on a name.

Eliza Oliver is mesmerising as Mary, you simply cannot take your eyes off her – her stillness, her confusion, her quiet power, and her slowly building spark of spirit. As you watch her gradual attainment of self-realisation, and the way that this feeds off her friendship with Red and flows into her responses to Crick, you can’t help but silently cheer her on. As Crick, Andreas Lohmeyer brings the mix of arrogant entitlement, blind enthusiasm, naïve stupidity, and unsettling manipulation needed for the role. Rounding out the cast as Red, Annabel Matheson is the antithesis to Crick; calming, generous and grounded. She also provides the live musical performances for some scenes, which do indeed make the show feel a bit like a tale told by a campfire.

This is an interestingly woven tale from Sarah Ruhl, which has been aptly directed by Sarah Dunn to bring out the dream-like quality in the script and highlight the important issues raised within it. However, one perplexing choice is having Oliver and Lohmeyer deliver lines with their natural Australian accent while Matheson has a quintessential Southern American drawl. While it may make the characters of Mary and Crick more easily understandable or relatable for the audience, the play is clearly set in small-town America, where all three characters have grown up, and thus the mix is jarring and confusing. This small foible aside, it’s a charming and arresting production.

Kryztoff rating: 4K

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