“In this Western spoof that owes a debt to Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, as all Western spoofs do, the characters on the silver screen literally come alive on stage.
See, it’s a multi-media Western spoof, and rarely have the film and live action elements been combined so artfully at the Fringe. Characters run off the stage to immediately appear on screen in scenes shot in a suitably Western location weeks, perhaps months ago. Brent Felzien both writ the tale and made the movin’ pictures – and about a minute into this knee-slappin’ oater you’ll be flappin’ yer gums like a grizzled prospector, too.
Your narrator and designated grizzled prospector (every good Western must have one) is Old Willie (William Banfield), who, between eating beans and farting, sets the usual scene – lawless Old West town ruled by a gang of no-good varmints led by a crooked sheriff – and introduces the usual protagonist: A shadowy stranger known only as the “Cowboy.” A vibraslap goes off every time the word “Cowboy” is uttered – much in the same way that a horse whinnies in fright every time “Frau Blucher” is mentioned in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein.
Needless to say, the Cowboy is a fast draw, a crack shot, a catch for the local womenfolk – all one of “her” – and a mysterious man of few words. He has gun and will travel. He has a mysterious backstory, too: A murder committed by the same set of afoermentioned no-good varmints in the very same lawless town he just happened to ride into. What a coincidence!
Felzien and his fun-loving posse have taken care not to leave out any Western movie cliches, and then turn them upside down. The gunfights are a scream, the love scenes a hoot, the horseback riding both a scream and a hoot. Within the usual Western plotline – from saloon poker game to thwarted romance to final showdown – here’s even a train robbery that goes off the rails into complete absurdity. The film elements mesh beautifully with the low-tech stage props, for full comic effect. That the bad guys all are all armed with toy guns is a nice touch. There are many more, the sort of one-second sight gags and quick groaners that Mel Brooks specialized in.
It’s frankly amazing that any of the actors can keep a straight face doing this material, but the Cliff Kelly as the Cowboy keeps his steely Clint Eastwood stare painted on the entire time – even as a burly, bearded man on screen is lip-syncing to Paula Cole’s Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?
This is a brilliant Fringe comedy – all that’s missing is a candygram for Mongo.”
~Mike Ross of the Edmonton Sun
“I saw the debut of Cowboy five years ago, since then Accidental Humour Co. has taken its multimedia shows to a new place in productions such as Happy Whackin’ Jim McCrackin. William Banfield returns in the role of the prospector and the local lady of the night who has stolen the heart of the mysterious Cowboy. Cliff Kelly, channeling a steely eyed Clint Eastwood, now embracing an outlaw life, is a thorn for a conniving sheriff when his love for Lucy awakens his heroic tendencies. The rock solid cast and crew is on top of their game and they have to be to make this blend of multi screen visuals, featuring lush location footage and onstage choreography work together, and it works well while being blazingly funny.”
~Todd James of Global News
Aww heck, how couldn’t you love a bunch of ‘Berta boys donning their finest cowboy gear and going all ol’ western?
And how couldn’t you have fun when you just know that the crew from Accidental Humour Co. is having an absolute ball performing Cowboy: A Cowboy Story?
Originally performed at Edmonton Fringe Festival five years ago, Cowboy has all the absurdity and lowbrow humour a fan of country-and-western movies could want.
Brent Felzien’s well-crafted script doesn’t miss a beat nor do the performances of Cliff Kelly, William Banfield, Frazer Andrews, Jeremy Mason and Neil James under the eye of Neil LeGrandeur.
With generous tips of the hat to all the classic country movie clichés, there’s love, danger, explosions, spittoons and plenty of double-crossing to be had and there’s just a hint of Monty Python madness to the horse chase scene.
The combination of live stage acting and pre-recorded scenes on the big screen adds a new, fantastic, immersive level to the performance and really pushes the actors to be on point with their timing and cues.
They appeared to nail every one one of them. When they say multimedia, they really do mean it. A great experience in a great venue.
~Juris Graney of the Edmonton Journal
Whoo-ee! Now’s this here’s the way a western should be seen! A laugh-a-minute romp through the Wild West, Cowboy: A Cowboy Story is a high-speed multimedia train ride full of comedic punch and great big belly laughs. The Fringe specialists who brought you Happy Whackin’ Jim McCrackin and For a Love of a Zombie are at it again: featuring expertly timed video, sound and live action, Cowboy is a witty tale of gunslingin’, treason and loss. A campy western done right.”
~Megan Dart of Vue Magazine
Anybody who has seen Accidental Humor Co.’s Fringe productions know that regardless of premise or genre, they’re unlike anything else at the festival. The Edmonton-based collective returns with Cowboy: A Cowboy Story, a live-action-meets-big-screen comedy western that seamlessly blends stage action with pre-recorded footage running parallel. The story isn’t much more than your archetypal spaghetti western but it’s impossible not to leave unsatisfied, with dynamic and well-executed stage direction that squeezes Hollywood-Epic levels of depth into a brisk 70 minutes and a cast fully committed to the high-octane goofiness that this entails.
~Ryan Stephens of Vue Magazine
“It was great seeing this show again and with added elements in the new space. I was laughing from the first few moments on and I continue to be amazed by how in sync they are with the theatre and the film. Fast paced, funny and full of energy – you know they are enjoying doing the show as much as the audience is enjoying watching it.”
~Kristen Finlay of Finster Finds
“This droll and deadpan show takes us to “a time when men were men. And women were men too. And one man was more man than most men could manage.” That would be the Old West, home of the fake beard, the shameless double entendre … and yes, the mysterious cold-eyed stranger who’s either “an avenging angel or cursed by the devil.”
He is The Cowboy (Cliff Kelly). He approaches “like a thunderhead.” He’s new in town, the loner, tall as myth, the man of few words, no friends, and secret sorrows. “His only partner is his gun. His lover is his horse….” This show smacks its lips, tucks in, and keeps moving. The same forces who created last summer’s multimedia action homage Happy Whackin’ Jim McCrackin are back, with this smartly executed gallop from stage to screen and back again, through the trail dust of clichés, and a tale of treachery, revenge, betrayal, with all the usual accoutrements and then some.
The targets are familiar, approaching threadbare, to say the least. Doesn’t your heart sink a little when you hear the word “ornery”? So Cowboy has its work cut out for it that way. What distinguishes the work of the Accidental Humour Co., directed by Neil LeGrandeur and the writer Brent Felzien, is its purchase on deadpan comedy, its sharp writing, and its expertise with interactive technology. The timing between stage and screen is impressive. No, uncanny. Entire gun battles happen; bullets fly everywhere and produce live corpses, instantly. This has a hilarity of its own.
The cast embraces the style and runs with it; maybe the best spoofs are homages. Kelly, the leading man, has an impenetrable gravitas to him. William Banfield as the cornpone prospector cliché on legs, Frazer Andrews as the dubious sheriff — all are funny because they don’t think they are.”
~Liz Nicholls of the Edmonton Journal