Theatre Review - Cowbois

Vinnie Heaven in Cowbois [Ali Wright]

The RSC’s transfer of Charlie Josephine’s queer Western received a rapturous welcome from the Royal Court audience on the night I went, although the critics’ response has been more mixed.

Cowbois is set in a small town in the Wild West. Lured by the goldrush the men have been absent for almost a year and show no sign of returning. Their wives congregate in the local saloon run by Miss Lillian (Sophie Melville), supposedly under the “protection” of the town’s drunken sheriff (Paul Hunter).

Two notices above the bar grab our attention: One lays out the rules we know are going to get broken - “no guns, no politics” - while the other is a wanted poster for Jack Cannon.

When Jack (Vinnie Heaven), a handsome, non-binary outlaw and notorious gun-slinger, swings into town with a bounty on their head, they inspire a gender revolution, set hearts ablaze and unleash a joyful mood of liberation and tolerance.

Josephine cleverly subverts various tropes of the Western and this boisterous production, co-directed with Sean Holmes, is lots of fun. Soon the sheriff is indulging his love of silk, Lucy (Lee Brathwaite), now known as Lou, is getting together with Jayne (Lucy McCormick), while Miss Lillian and Jack make eyes at one another – their steamy sex scene in a bath tub is particularly memorable.

The drama is a little predictable - we can guess when the men folk are going to reappear - and the second half could have been shorter, but it’s a delightfully buoyant evening complete with song, dance and a live band. Fab costumes by Grace Smart too.

The central performances are perfectly pitched, although an ebullient Lemuel Ariel Adou nearly steals the show as Kid.

To February 10

Originally published by Westminster Extra