Cowbois @ The Swan Theatre (Stratford-upon-Avon) Review

A centuries-long staple originating from medieval Spain, the Cowboy tradition has typically pushed the male experience to the fore – shootouts, horse rearing, lingo associated with the form and the attire all things synonymous with the Cowboy way of life. Centuries down, the tradition immortalised within 20th century Westerns – black and white sustained Saloon backdropped scenes simmering with tensions and showdowns and dehydrated deserted tumbleweeded planes the foundations for the fight to dominance. Seldom however have we really seen the perspective of the female, queer gaze, something writer Charlie Josephine necessarily explores in Cowbois, a fresh, eye opening, nuanced take on the form.

Vinnie Heaven as Jack. Photo by Henri T © RSC

Exploring the partners left behind by their cowboy husbands during wartime, Cowbois centres the day to day lives of five women dutied with the raising of the next generation and the upkeep of their homes and community. Bound by gender stereotypical norms, any step out of line resulting in the shaming and ostracism. The presence of a mysterious ‘wanted’ criminal by the name of Jack Cannon (Vinnie Heaven) completely shaking up the once conservative dynamic, opening up the floor for all to release their inhibitions.

Within this shake up do we see women go against expectations and put themselves first, which is a radical act for the time, and presently. Josephine skilfully and tenderly exploring what it means for each of the cast to explore self worth further and their paths towards this – Sophie Melville’s Miss Lillian demure – placing everybody else before herself, Emma Pallant’s Sally Ann cautious, Bridgette Amofah’s Mary strong, Lee Braithwaite’s Lucy/Lou courageous, and Lucy McCormick’s Jayne, loquacious. These energies turned upside down by Jack’s (Vinnie Heaven’s) magnetism which is fascinating to watch slowly unfold – Jack taking joy from rustling the feathers of the locality. Josephine and Sean Holmes direct a raucous, vibrant production defiant in its intentions, Jennifer Jackson’s movement sequences sassy – statements within themselves, brilliantly encapsulating the transformations of the cast as they slowly shatter expectation.

Written by Lucy Basaba.

Cowbois is currently showing until Saturday 18th November 2023 at The Swan Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop