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BRIGHTON FRINGE: Hitch Your Wagon: Improvised Cowboy Songs – Laughing Horse @ The Walrus

Reviewer: Thom Punton

Performed by Tea and Toast

As we enter the cool, dimly lit basement parlour of The Walrus pub we are greeted with howdies and asked to write down a suggestion for a cowboy song on a scrap of paper. We find we have been transported to a campfire under the stars somewhere in the American Wild West. The audience is seated in a circle around this campfire (with a beautiful glowing mass of fairy lights at its centre). Cowboys and cowgirls from the Tea and Toast improv troupe are planted in the audience and make conversation with the modern day punters. The show starts and we’re immersed in a frontier fantasy peopled with characters who blossom at each other’s whims until they finally feel the need to break into song, at which point they reach for one of our ingenious song title suggestions. It’s a gloriously fun, inventive and involving format that produces a slew of catchy off-the-cuff singalongs.

The comedic acting of the troupe shines as they put on their best rootin, tootin cowboy accents and bounce off each other, creating back stories that include Jim with his ex-wife Mad Mouth Meredith to whom he was married for 27 years before shooting her. Then in an attempt to win over Carol (who is struggling with the rather un-cowgirl anxiety of other people watching her eat) he sings his “wooing song”, which when he picks his song title turns out to be called “Brokeback Mountain”.

There are many funny moments brought about by either the incongruity of the randomly chosen song title or the curveballs the performers throw at each other. Sometimes the songs can become a little samey with the song title usually repeated over and over to make up the chorus. But the songs are all super catchy and the country campfire musical style is deftly recreated. There is clearly plenty of improvisational skill on show here, with the performers free-styling the words of the songs with very little preparation, accompanied by one of the cowboys’ strummed acoustic guitar.

There are maybe a few moments where the material doesn’t quite feel like it is flowing as seamlessly as it could, where the characterisation or humour stalls. However, it’s a show that has you on its side throughout, partly because you’re so close to the performers you feel like you’re part of the show. Perhaps the greatest testament to the success of the show is the way many in the audience join in singing the songs and can even be heard humming the melodies on the way out back into the real world of 2024 Brighton.

Runs until 2 June 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Catchy, off-the-cuff cowboy singalongs

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One Comment

  1. I saw this and loved it as I’m a cowboy film fan. I didn’t find any songs “samey” and it was more that they were giving us a chance to sing along – they were definitely catchy songs! I also didn’t notice any “stalling” or lack of flow and I was completely immersed and entranced throughout – an amazing show, never seen anything like it and will be back for more for sure! Yeehaw!

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