“A dazzling series of verbal loops, covering fishing, trained seals and sea lions, the usefulness of horses and children (once both are broken in) and ‘freedom’.”
Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)
There’s a long and honourable tradition of shows with two protagonists (usually male) trapped together in an unusual situation. ‘The Dumb Waiter’, ‘The Zoo Story’, ‘Steptoe and Son’, most of Laurel and Hardy, ‘Waiting for Godot’ and Rick and Ade in ‘Bottom’ to name a few. To that list, we can now add Horse Country, CJ Hopkins’s just over 60-minute play, first seen at Edinburgh in 2002.
This time it’s Flying Bridge Theatre Company, based in Newport, to bring Sam and Bob to life. And in the form of Daniel Llewelyn-Williams and Michael Edwards, they are in very safe hands. As the audience enters, both actors are onstage, slippers on, seemingly channelling their inner Laurel and Hardy (also playing as the front of House music), in particular Edward’s nervous grinning and waving to members of the crowd embodying the spirit of Mr Laurel.
However, the cosiness does not last long as the play begins in a blizzard of words, images and ideas which shake us out of any complacency. Sam and Bob, our protagonists, take us through a dazzling series of verbal loops, covering fishing, trained seals and sea lions, the usefulness of horses and children (once both are broken in) and ‘freedom’. And here’s the nub, for all Sam and Bob’s talk and dreams of freedom, they are essentially trapped in a system they cannot control and from which they seemingly cannot escape. The search for the lost nine of diamonds from their deck of cards is as futile as their quest to go “out there”, we get an occasional glimpse and then it disappears.
I was reminded at times of watching Twin Peaks, accept everything you see and hear, then work out your own meaning later.
Both actors show superb verbal and physical dexterity throughout the performance and their onstage chemistry is perfectly aligned. They invite us into their world and we willingly take the trip, which makes the one moment of real violence all the more shocking.
It’s a strong performance for Flying Bridge Theatre and hopefully will have a life beyond Edinburgh.
Come for the slapstick. Stay for the verbal gymnastics. Leave with a free carrot (maybe). Get your riding coats on and go see this.
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