The West

Style: Western Hi Jinx
Where: Colab Tavern, Elephant and Castle
Booking: https://www.colabtheatre.co.uk/whatson

Rating: 3.5 stars

The West is a lot of fun. The night that I attended was press night and so perhaps had fewer rowdy punters and more cynical hacks than normal (there was a lot less dressing up than I would usually see at this kind of event) but it still had a certain bonhomie that was brought in the spirit of audience and cast partnership. The show as a whole zips along and has a lot of hidden ideas and ways in which you could see elements that would bear repeatability. The audience was divided roughtly into thirds which means that we all had different experiences along the way. Adding that to the fact that the storyline had huge elements of participation from the audience, giving the cast a chance to playfully interpret event the whackiest of the audiences ideas into semi-reality.The storyline for The West is pretty basic – not unfitting for the kind of western it is a homage to. A town is undersiege and needs to be rebuilt but a bad element is ready to do it down and it is up to – the good folks of Ulverton to rebuild and then protect it. The fact that we chose to build a Bordello and a strip joint (though we did also unionise both) tells us something about us as an audience – and it’s not clear we were that much the good guys really. Most of the elements of The West are good fun. But they don’t always make for as cohesive a whole as I have experienced previously at Colab Tavern. That can be overcome as the show beds in. Where it’s greater weakness lies though is in a lack of a sense of jeopardy. The players were clearly fans of world-builder games like Civilisation which feed into the elelmet of building the town. But we had too much money, too easily come by. Equally, we followed a trail of clues but the clues themselves were a bit too cryptic and the nudges from the cast too obvious – there could be a better balance between the two. A love letter I wrote that was supposed to be a critical element was never referred to again once posted. A vital secret never brought to fruition.

All this is easily fixable though and the base of the world created here is great – a fun place to be and well thought through. The cast are committed and engaging and well versed in dealing with the kind of audiences who want to pretend to be cowboys and saloon gals. The West is fun but frothy – it just needed to be a bit more frightening.

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