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

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
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
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
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

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

    £20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

    Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

    £24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

    Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

    Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all