Theatre: Carry on cowboy

"WARNING: This show contains material that might cause offense." Thus spake the unusually winning press release for Yee-Haw!!, the self- styled "crazy, camp, cross-dressing cowboy" musical (right). Affixed beneath this fearfully stern warning was a shocking example of this downright degrading material: a piece of purple gingham.

Well, darn it, I was off down that there theater swifter than a sharp- eyed shoot-up at a hoedown. Yup, this pistol-packin' show's got everything: stampedin' buffalo, thigh-slappin' cowboys, and painted cacti. Heck, the audience even enter through a pair of swinging saloon doors. Fine-talkin', fresh-faced Luke Calhoun (whose mother taught him decency, truth and righteousness) heads off to Red Rock in search of his father's gold, which just happens to be buried in the basement of his new landlord, local sheriff Wilt P Haversack, who lives there with his sharp-shootin' Sapphic daughter, Cindy-May.

However, our hapless, hopeful hero hasn't reckoned on the wiles of wicked JF and his Red Indian sidekick Hank, who will stop at nothing to find the loot. They even cut local whore Lulabelle into the deal, who tries to persuade Luke to "ride shotgun on the Bed-wood stage..." (This show has less political correctness than the AGM of the Ku Klux Klan.) Luke is taken with Red Rock's quaint main drag, but JF heads him off at the pass. "I've got four words to say to you," he growls, threateningly, "Out- of-town shopping..."

Anyone expecting an operatic treatment of Dances with Wolves or High Noon with high notes should saddle their horse and gallop off in the opposite direction. The budget for Gregg Harris's perky, shoestring production (splendid painted sets by Jan Rosser) wouldn't even buy a bootlace tie for the National's upcoming Oklahoma!, yet the alacrity with which the audience supplied the odd special effect is testament to the fun we were all having.

In the cold light of day, it must be admitted that Peter Shrubshall and Richard Free's music and lyrics may not cause Stephen Sondheim to consider a career change. But hang on there. Like most of the score, the duet "Just a Matter of Time" is generic Country-'n'-Western-meets-showtune spoof, but despite spending most of it switching (hilariously bad) costumes, boisterous boy-hating Cindy-May and newly-liberated Luke manage to make it genuinely touching. The whole cast deliver the numbers with an insane and insanely funny enthusiasm, particularly "Rip-Snortin' Woman". Best of all is the lunatic Act Two opener in which the six-strong energetic cast leap into the captivatingly daft "Sing and dance/For no particular reason". Clint Eastwood gave us Unforgiven. What these varmints have cooked up is Unforgiveable but a heck of a lot funnier. Mind you, what can you expect from a director who lists previous career highs as Ibsen in IKEA "which caught the pine essence and functional morality of the piece" (Furniture Monthly).

Yes, the choreography is a little cramped. Yes, a little cutting wouldn't go amiss, but the sense of fun is completely infectious thanks to the cast. As naive Luke, Nick Atkinson is superb. He gives the whole kit'n'kaboodle a bizarrely truthful centre. He has split-second timing, but instead of using it for cheap laughs, he builds his hilarious double-take bafflement and innocence into his character. Danny Charles is also memorably daffy, doubling as Hank and dangerously high-pitched Black Jack Jackson. The whole shebang makes Blazing Saddles look like Gibbon's Decline and Fall. This supremely silly show is destined to become a cult. It deserves to run and run.

The Rosemary Branch, Shepperton Road, N1 (0171-704 6665) Tue-Sat 8pm, Sun 4pm to 22 Mar

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
News
Williams says: 'The reason I got jobs was because they would blow the budget on the big guys - but they only had to pay me the price of a cup of tea'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

    Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

    Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

    Austen Lloyd: In-House Solicitor / Company Secretary - London

    Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...

    Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee