Assembly Rooms – Front Room
Aug 9-13, 15-24 (17:10)
William Hartley has drifted from the Clever Peter troupe into the legendary life of a cowboy called Roscoe ‘Blackjack’ Porter. It is time for a daring full-length celebration of Hartley’s talents as he conjures twenty-five characters & every western catchphrase in the lexicon to shine a light on Roscoe’s flailing world. The main character, it seems, has been dragged through the cacti backwards, oppressed by desperate thoughts, but is still smiling. From him, like kaleidoscopic shards of light, the other 24 parts are played through accent deviations, slight costume changes, & a puppet shaped like a cactus. Of the many parts, Roscoe’s brother, John, is the most important figure for the plot, a plainly noble family-man sheriff, whose polar opposite Roscoe tells us; ‘Its funny how you can have the same ma, the same pa, & more or less the same upbringing, but one of you turns out to be a prissy dic£head.”
A lot of the familiarity-friendly action takes place in the Mucky Donkey salon, where its, ‘outside for shooting, inside for drinking,’ with a brothel upstairs. When Roscoe frequents the brothel later in the play, the results are quite eye-opening to say the least. On another occasion the gatling gun turns up one of its first ever historical outings to the line, ‘there are a million ways to die in the West, but this one is best,’ which was actually a brilliant, out-of-the-box inclusion, I loved that. As for the rest, yeah, its good, proper buzzin’ in places, but the speed of character changes & the minimum of trappings which Hartley uses to blur our receptors is just a tad tricky to follow at times. Gun is, in all essence, a western comic strip for adults, brought to life with a gallop like a cowboy chasing a prize steer.
Damian Beeson Bullen