Chris Eldon Lee reviews ‘My Big Fat Cowpat Wedding’, which is touring rural Shropshire this month (October 2014).
The most worrying dilemma is : what do you do about the cows? Do you run for your life from what must surely be man-eating monsters, or kneel in the mud to worship them? That’s just one of the problems facing a coach load of Wolverhampton-ites who’ve travelled 50 miles (and back 5 decades) to rural Shropshire to attend the second leg of an Anglo-Asian wedding.
English-rose Claire is marrying city-lad Arjun and we find ourselves welcome guests at the village hall reception, imbibing warm beer and hot samosas, whilst the Big Day crumbles all around us.
It’s a highly entertaining 90-minute romp, up and down the hall, with plenty of harmless humour (what prejudice there is, is rural rather than racial), some neatly observed truths about the fate of farming, and engaging performances from a versatile quartet playing 22 parts.
Sayan Kent’s script is firmly rooted in mixed-marriage/urban-rural research and her characters are instantly recognisable. Graeme Rose’s father-of-the-bride is a classic stuck-in-the-mud, head-in-the-sand dairy farmer who knows all his cows by name but refuses to let his daughter look at the books. Unusually, Clare (Aimee Berwick) wants to commit to her father’s farm and plucky Arjun (Aaron Virdee) loves her enough to persuade his mother (Sheena Patel) to wear wellies for the first time in her life. It’s all a bit of a culture shock – but at least the new in-laws don’t keep pigs.
The plot is slight and light and careers towards a fairy tale finale. But there is plenty of fun to be had along the way, especially when the cast slip into their cameo roles.
Sheena shines throughout. I loved her man-hungry, Asian Scotswoman doing dubious Viking jokes; and her double act with Aimee, as two chavvie teenagers struggling to get a signal in darkest Shropshire, rings loud. “What’s the point of the countryside?” “Dunno, I thought green belt was something to do with Judo”.
Aaron’s extravagantly gay, yow-yow Sikh will stay with me for a long while and Graeme’s portrayal of Aunt Marigold is sensitive and heart warming. The wedding clichés are brazen; from “Dancing Queen” to all those useless presents.
This is a triangular collaboration between Black Country Touring, Shropshire’s Arts Alive and Kali Theatre – and it works a treat. Directors Janet Steele and Steve Johnson are clearly familiar with both sides of the cultural divides and have cleverly constructed a production that will be equally at home in urban Wolverhampton (where last night’s audience absolutely lapped it up) as in the village halls of Merry England.
So put on your best wedding hat and head for Whitchurch (Oct 3rd), Shipton (4th), Priest Weston (10th), Farlow and Oreton (11th), or Bodenham in Herefordshire (12th).
I’m still smiling – and I can’t wait for Gilbert O’Sullivan to release his bhangra version of “Clare”.
For full touring details see :
Photo by Robert Day