Venue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), Dec 4 – 7, 2013
Playwrights: Sam Shepard & Patti Smith
Director: Kate Wadey
Actors: Bianca London, Jake Lyall
The script is a challenging one. It is full of incoherence, and has consistent stylistic allusions to intoxication. Abstraction is its addiction, and effort is required of both artist and audience to embrace and appreciate it. Words on stage function differently from when they are in a book. We listen to them at a speed dictated by actors, and do not have the luxury to ruminate on complex sections at our own leisure. Fortunately, Kate Wadey’s direction is careful to tell the story visually and through music, creating a show that relies on more than the delivery of lines to connect.
Wadey’s creative decisions are interesting and well thought through. She utilises her actors’ skills well, showing them off in the best light possible, thus drawing us into their bizarre love story. Wadey has chosen to play the characters’ conversation relatively straightforward, which helps with grounding the abstract nature of the writing, but sacrifices the opportunity for more outlandish theatrical expression. There is a sense of restraint that makes for an elegant interpretation, but could at times come across slightly conservative.
Jake Lyall plays Slim with great conviction and power. Within the confines of script and direction, he does a beautiful job of bringing to life a character that we do not necessarily understand a great deal of. He portrays a wide range of emotion with authenticity and clarity, and it is his emotional journey that forms the main plot trajectory on which we travel. Lyall is a charismatic performer who commands attention easily, and shows intelligence in the measured way he tackles the role.
Bianca London’s portrayal of Cavale highlights the innocence of the couple. London has the valuable quality of affability, and the wide-eyed wonder she brings to the piece lightens the work, making it more palatable, although the bleak inebriation that characterises the writers’ legacy from the period is missed. Nostalgia and reminiscence is not a major driving force in this production of Cowboy Mouth, but as an exploration of intimate theatre, it succeeds in creating something unconventional, landing at a space that is certainly off the beaten track.