Charolais - Edfringe Review

Siobhan enters, hugely pregnant, in a blood stained apron wielding a kitchen knife. What follows is an age old story of a woman jealous of another woman in her man’s life. Only the twist in this darkly witty tale is that the other woman really is a cow, a purebred Charolais heifer. Siobhan’s boyfriend is a farmer who devotes considerable attention to his prize heifer at the expense of his very pregnant girlfriend. Siobhan has developed a homicidal jealousy for this Charolais and is feeling equally murderous towards her snobbish soon-to-be mother in law, Brede.

Noni Stapleton is both writer and performer and revels in plotting increasingly bizarre ways to do away with the pair of them, leaving her to enjoy life with Jimmy and the baby, although she does have to admit that he has his shortcomings. Farmers not being given to much in the way of sweet nothings it seems.

The play is full of unexpected twists and turns and Stapleton’s ability to make lightening shifts in tone as she shares each murderous plan whilst, at the same time, checking her pregnancy app and attending yoga classes is skilled and hilarious. An unusual aspect of the play is that she goes beyond the usual approach of a solo play where the protagonist addresses us directly with the actor also playing the characters that the protagonist interacts with; Stapleton takes on the role of the Charolais cow who also shares her expectations and intimate feelings with us. It doesn’t feel entirely positive to congratulate a performer on her portrayal of a cow, but Stapleton’s cow is superb – she tosses her head, she masticates slowly, she scratches her hindquarters against the kitchen table in a manner most cow like. She also manages to sound like a cow whilst singing slightly reworked versions of Edith Piaf songs. We care about her almost as much as we do about Siobhan.

For all the witty lines and hilarity there is also a sense of the hardships of a farming life in rural Ireland with reference to the family having lost their herd in the 1980s, the suggestion that, whilst Jimmy’s mother, Brede, is a miserable old hag as far as Siobhan is concerned she is also worried about the future of the farm. All of which adds a sense of depth and contributes to the dramatic climax of the play.

The Spotlites studio stage felt a little cramped for the piece but at the same time the intimacy of a small venue added to the sense of being almost part of the story.

This is a delicious and witty piece of lunchtime theatre that bowls along at a rate of knots (couldn’t find a farming metaphor) and will have you laughing, and thoughtful.

(c) Kate Saffin 2015
reviewed 18 August 2015

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/charolais
www.biggerpictureprojects.com

This review was originally published in Fringe Review as a 'Highly Recommended Show' http://fringereview.co.uk/review/edinburgh-fringe/2015/charolais/

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