King Cowboy Rufus Rules The Universe!
London Theatre Workshop
Reviewed – 15th August 2017
“The cast is on point, sustaining the focus and frenetic energy unwaveringly”
An English fop, who pretends to be an American cowboy but dreams of being King. There is no way to sum up the plot of Richard Foreman’s 2004 play, as there is none. This is a surreal abstract glimpse into the psyche of an infantile and reckless buffoon, playing with the power of his own subconscious – made all the more nightmarish for the very real links to a certain Mr Trump.
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This is a very ambitious and brave play for a fringe company to attempt and director (designer and choreographer) Patrick Kennedy’s team certainly give it their all.
It is worth saying straight up – this is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. It is disorientating, disconnected and confrontational from the off. This is not a world to get comfortable in yet Patrick Kennedy embraces it fully. This is his third Foreman play and he clearly loves the material. From the set detail to the glaring lights, this is a tightly choreographed piece which addresses each new image with precision. The care in which the grotesque is presented creates a genuinely unsettling atmosphere – like riding in a limousine with a drunk at the wheel. The comedy is dark, made more so by recent events – King Rufus at one point does a Nazi salute – and it offers up no answers. In forcing the audience to assemble it’s own meaning Kennedy succeeds admirably.
The cast is on point, sustaining the focus and frenetic energy unwaveringly. As man-baby King Rufus, Stewart Briggs has a dangerous innocence, credibly flipping from childish to psychotic in an instant, charming but never likeable. As Susie, the stand out performer Madelaine Nicole Jennings injects some sass and warmth into the gun-totting bride and Kate Baxter’s innocuous, dead-eyed Baron Herman brings a chilling undercurrent to all her scenes. But the highlight for me was the music – the ensemble, completed by Jessica Foden and Dev Joshi, is lyrically stunning, beautifully complementing Kieran Stallard’s composition.
However not all of the effects succeed. In an intimate space with a limited budget some of the visual props don’t have the impact needed to carry the images. The constant bombardment may have meant to be abrasive, but repetitive rhythm also risks becoming predictable and at one hour and 20 minutes the show certainly outstays its welcome.
This is not a show for everyone. It’s not one I would rush to see again. But it is exciting to see a young director and an accomplished cast use the fringe for what it was intended for – to take a risk and play with a more obscure type of theatre. For that reason alone I’m pleased I went and I hope to see more from this company.
Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com
Photography by Alessia Chinazzo
KING COWBOY RUFUS RULES THE UNIVERSE!
is at the London Theatre Workshop until 26th August