I was not sure what to expect as I came into the Stretch on a cold Thursday evening. Gin and tonic in hand, I took my seat and waited for the performance to start.
My first impression was positive. The opening scene set up the tone for the rest of the play, beginning with three people in the centre of the stage, holding guns and quivering. Portrayed as comic characters, they stumble around scaring each other. The scene then moved to show the entrance of one of the main characters – Wayne Clifton. As he approaches, the audience can see only the quivering characters stare with awe, panic and fear, heightening the suspense of who this mysterious figure is. The sheriff turns around to reveal himself to the audience. Confidently asserting his authority in the room, he charms and captivates the audience, thus framing the character’s arrogant nature.
For the full two hours I was thoroughly entertained – laughing, sympathising, panicking and being held in suspense as the cast surpassed my expectations and achieved an impressive performance in the small space of the Stretch.
There were two elements in the play that particularly stood out. The first was the impressively executed accents of every character. The play is set in the ‘Wild West’, therefore accents had to seem authentic and the high standard was consistent within the whole cast. Special mention to the character of Father Figuhr, played by Stephen Caswell, who gave a convincing Western accent, which was pulled off even through the comic “Cactus song” scene. Another character who used their accent for comedic purposes was the sheriff. An obvious change in tone was used when he was attempting to impress the pretty new teacher, Lara Goodlearnin. Another stand-out accent was that of the comically corrupt mayor, played by Georgia Green, who performed convincingly.
The second element, which was more subtle, was the allusion to important societal issues. Racism, for example, was referenced at the start of the play, with Little Creek introduced as a “slightly racist town.” Sexism was shown through the character of Lara Goodlearnin seen as a “typical feminine” character, and her unusual doubling with another female – the deputy. American patriotism was mocked through the chorus of voices shouting “America!” in unison whenever it was mentioned.
Overall, I thought the production worked well. Good use of the stage and sound, the quick change overs, and the help of the two chaperones to change over the set, showed it was a well-rehearsed and thought-out production! Sound and light were used strongly, especially when presenting the sheriff’s hallucinatory voices. The only negative aspect I could comment on was that the ending appeared a little confusing and vague, and there seemed a lack of finality. Yet this was a lively performance, and the energy from the audience bounced off on stage! I enjoyed my journey to the ‘Wild West’ that evening and will be attending another Goldsmiths Drama Society production soon, to see what else they have in store!