Monday, September 23, 2013

Death Rides A Horse, Melbourne Fringe Festival 2013 Review

Death Rides A Horse - Rama Nicholas

Reviewed by Lee Bemrose

The title is taken from the 1967 Spaghetti Western by Sergio Leone and starring Lee Van Cleef, and while the feel of this one woman performance is loyal to that genre of film-making (just as cheesy but funnier), the story is only tenuously connected to the movie, if at all.

Writer and performer Rama Nicholas plays more than a dozen characters including Clixter the horse narrator, Catarina the heroine, flamenco hero and love interest Gus (I think this was his name... my note-taking-in-the-dark sucks), a villainous sheriff, a brothel madam and her entire whorehouse. There are many other minor characters too who get big laughs and are all, in their small way, a nod to the Spaghetti Western.

I have to admit that initially the cheesiness had me worried. It felt a little too flaky, like it was going to be an amateur performance that wasn't going to fly.

How wrong I was.
Less than 10 minutes into the show the audience is seduced by Nicholas' charm and gusto. Or perhaps it is the charm and gusto of the characters she plays. Catarina was orphaned at a young age and left on the doorstep of the whorehouse. The madam takes her in raises her, believing her to be destined for bigger things than whoredom. Indeed, Catarina wants to be the best darned cowgirl in the whole wide world, and when she is robbed of some racing prize money she teams up with the dancing Spaniard and they set off to Cancun on the Day Of The Dead (Death's day off) to put things right. She wants revenge on the sheriff, who killed her parents, and the Spaniard wants to kill Death for taking his young bride back in Barcelona.
It's pretty well a non-stop giggle fest of silliness and it's difficult to pick highlights. There are the girls in the whorehouse who sing of having dreams that never come true; the cross-country journey played out as a montage; our heroes' mishap with peyote; the dramatic shoot out; Death played as a music-hall song and dance man... it's all inventive, silly and played with obvious enjoyment.

And as playful as it all is, some of the songs and indeed the dialogue are a bit on the raunchy side. We are talking wild west whorehouse here and the play doesn't shy away from the nuts and bolts of how the girls make their living. The villainous sheriff even drops the C-bomb to hilarious effect (“Aw come on, I can say that - this is a fringe show!”). You'd have to be the prudiest prude to take offence.

Very funny stuff. Highly recommended.

At The Lithuanian Club, North Melbourne until September 27.

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